Acknowledgements - SOAS Research Online

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Acknowledgements - SOAS Research Online
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
Acknowledgements
I take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Dr R.G. Tiedemann, who - as
Doktorvater and as unrivalled font of knowledge on the subject matter - guided me
from the very first steps of the project. Thanks also to Professor Timothy Barrett, who
provided patient assistance in filling the numerous lacunae in my understanding of the
philosophical and religious life during the Ming and the Qing. I am also indebted to Dr
Robert Bickers, for his sharp observations concerning the argumentation and
presentation of my work.
This doctoral thesis is based on research carried out at archives in Beijing and
Rome. Dr Tiedemann introduced me to academics to whom the Roman archives are a
second home: Dr Francesco D’Arelli and the late Professor Bernward Willeke (OFM),
in particular, helped me gain access to, and orientate myself within, the archives of the
Propaganda Fide. I am equally grateful to Professor Huang Shijian ,
Professor Qin Baoqi and Professor Sha Zhi , who enabled me to find
my way around the academic institutions of the Chinese capital. The same applies to
the staff of the First Historical Archives (China Number One Historical Archives),
whom I found exceptionally helpful and willing to provide assistance. I appreciate the
financial help from the institutions and individuals who supported my research
directly through grants and stipends: The Overseas Ministries Study Center (OMSC,
New Haven), the University of London, the School of Oriental and African Studies,
University of Westminster, the British Library - as well as Dr Inga-Britt Bengtsson for
her continuous interest and support. My thanks also for the intellectual stimulation I
received from Dr Frank Dikötter, Dr Frances Wood, Dr Joseph Lee  and Dr
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Zhou Xun , and in particular from my patient companion Yasmine Estaphanos.
The work is dedicated to my parents, Hans and Karin Laamann.
Part I - Introduction
Chapter 1:
Defining the research parameters
1. Aims and structure
Timeframe and social parameters
This thesis will focus on manifestations of popular Christianity during the
mid-Qing period.1 It will argue that, following the exclusion of foreign missionaries
from China, tendencies towards inculturation accelerated, leading to the creation of a
generically Chinese expression of Christianity - passed on and preserved by
subsequent generations, in strict analogy to other popular Chinese religions.2 The
1
The term “popular Christianity” requires some preliminary explanation. “Popular” in itself is a multifaceted expression, which for our purposes may refer to the intellectual cosmos of China’s rural
population in the broadest sense. In the current Chinese discourse, the predicates "rural" (xiangcun
), “common” (minjian ) or “of the masses” (minzhong ) are used almost
interchangeably. Another definition, heralded by Daniel L. Overmyer, introduced the nuance of “folk
religion”, as opposed to more orthodox expressions of popular religiosity. Following Overmyer’s
definition, “folk religions” are characterised by “predominantly lay membership, hierarchical
organisation, active proselytisation, regular performance of religious rituals, possession of their own
scriptures and texts, and a tendency towards collective security and action.” See D. L. Overmyer,
“Alternatives: Popular Religious Sects in Chinese Society”, in: Modern China VII-2 (April 1981), p.
154. Christianity during the century of prohibition shared most of these characteristics, but lacked the
hierarchical (and the sheer numerical) strength of its Buddhist competitors. However, as Susan Naquin
cautioned readers, “popular religions” were usually illegal, ephemeral and active merely on the very
fringes of Chinese society - hence constituting the exact opposite of any implied connection with the
majority of the population (Susan Naquin, Shantung Rebellion: The Wang Lun Uprising of 1774, New
Haven and London: Yale University Press 1981, p. xiii). In the absence of any less problematic
definitions, Christianity after the Yongzheng edict will be referred to in this thesis as “popular”, simply
in contrast to the type of “elite Christianity” which had established itself within the literati class prior to
1724. For a recent discussion relating to “popular Christianity” in this sense during the late imperial
period, see Cheng Xiao a nd Zhang Ming , “Wanqing xiangshehui de yangjiaoguan: dui
jiaoan
de
yizhong
wenhua
xinli
jieshi
”
(“The
perception of Christianity by village society in late imperial China: Psychological explanations for state
action against religious groups”), in Lishi yanjiu , CCXXXVII-5 (October 1995), pp.
108-116.
2 In this thesis, the term “Christian” is used for any of the branches and sectarian divisions which have
evolved during the course of the religion’s history. As the vast majority of Christian missionaries during
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period covered spans the years 1724-1840 and was characterised by a more hostile
environment for Chinese Christianity. The anti-missionary edict of 1724 followed
more than one century of relative imperial favour, leading to a significant reduction in
the number of European missionaries in China - a situation which was to last until the
“Unequal Treaties” of the nineteenth century. This century of prohibition has been
chosen - and here the thesis differs significantly from earlier research on Chinese
Christianity - precisely because of the almost complete absence of Western
missionaries. References to missionaries will be used mainly to illustrate the degree to
which these were unable to exert significant influence on their flock. Instead, the
focus is on the development of indigenous Chinese Christianity, particularly at the
non-elite end of social and educational stratification. Since most cases analysed in this
thesis deal with uneducated commoners, the condemnatory verdicts of the
investigating officials differ markedly - both in language and in argumentation - from
the Ming-Qing continuum arrived with papal authorisation, “Christianity” specifically refers to Roman
Catholicism in its eighteenth century European expression. During the early Qing period, (Catholic)
Christianity was known as the “Teaching of the Lord of Heaven” (Tianzhujiao ), frequently
referred to as “Foreign teaching [from the West]” ([xi ] yangjiao ). Equally, in prenineteenth century China, the terms “Western” and “foreign” (in the use of xiyang ) can be
regarded as being synonymous with “European”. The “foreign Christians” of the Chinese documents
used for this thesis are hence European Catholics, unless otherwise indicated. The most important
exception to this rule - and almost immaterial to the eighteenth century - is the presence of mendicant
monks from the Iberian colonies in the Americas. See, for instance, Johannes Beckmann, “China im
Blickfeld der jesuitischen Bettelorden des 16. Jahrhunderts”, in: Neue Zeitschrift für
Missionswissenschaft XIX (1963), pp. 195-214 and XX (1964), pp. 27-41, 89-108.
The generic character for religious “teachings” (jiao ) is frequently simply rendered into
English as “sect”. Barend ter Haar has pointed out that this conventional translation is discriminatory, in
as much as it implies a bias against heterodox movements, in favour of established orthodoxy. See B.
ter Haar, The White Lotus Teachings in Chinese Religious History, Leiden: E. J. Brill 1992, p. 295 ff.
For a summary discussion of the terms “sect” and “cult”, see Kenneth Dean, Lord of the Three in One The Spread of a Cult in Southeast China, Princeton / New Jersey: Princeton University Press 1998, pp.
11-14. In accordance with contemporary convention, the literal translation of Christianity as “Teaching
of Christ” (Jidujiao ) usually refers to Protestant churches only. More recently, however,
Chinese historians have begun to reflect œcumenical tendencies by referring to Christianity in its
entirety as Jidujiao. For an introduction to the current use of Jidujiao as a collective term for all
expressions of Christianity, see Cao Weian , “Jidujiao zai zhongguo
” (“Christianity in China”), in: Zhongxue lishi jiaoxue cankao
 (“Reference materials for the teaching of history in secondary schools”),
8/1995, pp. 4-7.
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anti-Christian refutations aimed at their scholar-official peers.3 A parallel aim of this
thesis is thus to analyse official perceptions of Christianity as a popular religious
movement, focusing on the counter-measures of the governing elite as well as on the
legal and philosophical justification for their reactions.
Structure
The thesis consists of three parts. The aim of the first part is to define the
central theme of “inculturation”, using the historical development of Christianity as
the prime example. The concept will then be contrasted with other terms central to the
discourse and complemented by providing an overview of the existing literature. At
this point, the differences between the approach chosen for this thesis and the
methodologies adopted by earlier works on late imperial Christianity will become
clear. The introduction will be concluded by a brief overview of Christianity’s history
in China, while attempting to draw parallels with other religious ‘imports’ - such as
Buddhism. The topic will be taken up again in greater detail in the epilogue, where
links between the period under scrutiny and religious developments in present-day
China will be explored.
The second part is thematic and will provide concrete examples of
Christianity’s inculturation during the eighteenth century. Statements by Chinese
Christians as well as by visiting European missionaries will be analysed in order to
shed light on the transformation of Christianity in its original missionary expression to
a popular Chinese religion. Without attempting to establish any ‘success’ or ‘failure’
of the Christian mission, this part will systematically introduce all relevant
3
Jacques Gernet, Chine et christianisme - action et réaction, Paris: Gallimard 1982 can still be
regarded as the standard work for the late Ming anti-Christian elite discourse. Gernet’s methodological
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components of China’s popular culture in order to scrutinise the degree of
compatibility between traditional customs and the new Christian morality.
The third part is divided into a chronological survey and into a series of three
thematic chapters. The aim of this part is to analyse the relationship between the
Chinese state and the Christian communities during the eighteenth century, by
scrutinising the legal and philosophical parameters of state action against “heresy”
(xiejiao ). The survey chapter is intended to provide the historical background
for anti-Christian government action, and thus to emphasise the connection between
the latter and persecutions against other “heretical” movements. The chronology is
complemented by the thematic presentation of concrete archival evidence, illustrating
three different modes of perception: The “Christian” as the mysterious unknown,
Christian movements as a menace to internal peace and, finally, Christians as
collaborators of external intruders.
In the epilogue answers to the crucial questions of this thesis will be sought:
Who is the “Chinese Christian” being pursued by Qing officials and modern historians
alike? What defines “Christian” identity? And finally - are we confronted with a
unique cultural phenomenon or do parallels exist in the historical development of
Christianity? Issues raised in the introduction will be revisited on the basis of the
examples used in the main body of this thesis.
direction (“intellectuals refuting intellectuals”) differs substantially from the approach chosen for this
thesis.
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“Confessions” - A word of caution
Most of the Chinese sources used for this research date from a period of
renewed anti-heterodox persecution. These investigations into the world of “heresy”
are reproduced in memorials (zou , zhe ) to the capital, presenting the ideas of
Christian villagers in their own vernacular language. Confessions, however, were
extracted under physical and psychological duress, and their contents brought to paper
by scribes who had witnessed similar procedures against other sectarian movements.4
They were thus accustomed to a high degree of normative language in the context of
popular religions.5 In addition to this “normative censoring”, very direct interference
by state officials may have played a role. It was therefore highly relevant for the future
position of the reporting official - and of the magistrate in whose district the
investigations were being carried out - to present an investigation in a positive light.6
The bureaucrat’s political career was a powerful filter, sheltering the eyes of the
political elite from “undesirable” aspects. Thus influenced by coercion and
4
See Blaine Gaustad, “Prophets and Pretenders: Inter-sect Competition in Qianlong China”, in: Late
Imperial China XXI-1 (June 2000), pp. 1-40.
5 The same is of course true for the officials themselves who, for lack of better evidence or out of
mental lethargy, projected the known parameters of the literati world onto the uncharted depths of the
popular mind. These observations largely correspond with the general opinion of J. J. M. de Groot, who
believed that “to the Chinese mandarins, ... verisimilitude is always verity, and who preferably believe
confessions which confirm their own preconceived suspicions”. See Jan Jacob Maria de Groot,
Sectarianism and Religious Persecution in China - A Page in the History of Religions, Leiden: E. J.
Brill and Co. 1901 [Taibei reprint: Jingwen shuju , 1963], p. 353.
6 Pursuant to the Confucian principle of li , magistrates were advised to seek the assistance of local
leaders, such as baojia  heads and village elders, to detect and solve problems in their district.
Against the background of a steadily increasing population with a simultaneously stagnating
bureaucracy (one official for each 100,000 registered inhabitants in 1749, compared with the same
number per 250,000 subjects in 1819), the benefits of this policy seem self-evident. See Kung-Chuan
Hsiao , Rural China - Imperial Control in the Nineteenth Century, Seattle: University of
Washington Press 1960, p. 5. For more information on the working practices of district magistrates, see
Huang Liuhong  (author) and Djang Chu  (translator and editor), A Complete Book
Concerning Happiness and Benevolence - Fu-hui ch’üan-shu : A Manual for Local
Magistrates in Seventeenth-Century China, Tucson: University of Arizona Press 1984, p. 553. Huang
Liuhong wrote the manual towards the end of his life in the 1690s [preface dated 1694], having served
twice as district magistrate in Shandong and Zhili.
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interpretation, this category of official documentation is to be read with caution.7
Despite such shortcomings, confessions as a type of archival material still provide
formidable insight into the world of late imperial Christianity.
A similar degree of caution is due when analysing correspondence held at
missionary archives. Letters sent by missionaries positioned in the (initially relatively)
safe havens of Beijing and Macau often seemed to depict their spiritual flock in a
positive light in order to further their personal objectives: A successful harvest was
likely to provide more financial support from Europe. In reality, many of the local
Christians were largely unaware of the theological intricacies of their faith, and had
not seen a priest in their entire lives. Their self-perception as “Christians” was based
on Christianity’s successful inculturation into the matrix of traditional values, such as
“filial piety” (xiao ), which provided a major reason for the survival of
Christianity. Letters sent by visiting Europeans therefore tended to conceal the degree
of cultural hybridity Christianity had attained by the end of the long century of
prohibition.
2. The sources
Geography
This study in principle encompasses the entire territory of the Qing empire.
Unless otherwise stated, conclusions arrived at in the context of this thesis should be
seen as representative for the whole of China. The availability of archival materials,
however, restricted my research mainly to the northern half of Han China,
encompassing the North China Plains from Shandong to Shaanxi and the corridor
7
For a brief analysis, see Susan Naquin, “True Confessions: Criminal Interrogations as Sources for
Ch’ing History”, in: National Palace Museum Bulletin, XI-1 (March/April 1976), pp. 1-17. For a
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stretching from northern Zhili to the southern border of Henan (see maps). The
concentration of source materials partly reflects the existence of well-established
heterodox traditions in the northern provinces and, consequently, the state’s
preoccupation with popular movements within the northern ‘macro-regions’.8
Heterodox movements thrived with particular fecundity in the border areas of China’s
provinces, where they could be less easily controlled by the magistrates seated in the
provincial and prefectural capitals. Inaccessible or too troublesome to invigilate, these
mountains, swamps and forests formed a cordon sanitaire against attempts by the
state to weed out beliefs which did not pass the test of orthodoxy.9 Christianity usually
also flourished in regions with a tradition of welcoming heterodox movements, and
was therefore also a common occurrence in the Chinese north. Popular Christianity
was, on the other hand, also a highly mobile phenomenon: Contacts between Christian
communities could extend well beyond provincial borders, further accentuated by
migrant workers, itinerant professionals and missionaries. Evidence referring to the
southern provinces - Sichuan, Fujian and Guangdong in particular - is for this reason
often highly relevant to our understanding of Christianity in the northern parts.
Though frequently preoccupied with the Christian communities of the hills, fields and
marshes, the present study also includes evidence from the capital Beijing. Here, due
to the continuing presence of foreign missionaries up to the beginning of the
realistic description of incarceration during the mid-Qing, see Derk Bodde, “Prison Life in Eighteenth
Century Peking”, in: Journal of the American Oriental Society, LXXXIX (1969), pp. 311-333.
8 Skinner’s regional theory is outlined in G. William Skinner, “Mobility Strategies in Late Imperial
China: A Regional Systems Analysis”, in: Carol A. Smith, Regional Analysis, New York, San Francisco
and London: Academic Press 1976, volume I: Economic Systems, pp. 327-364, in particular pp. 331336.
9 Mountains, furthermore, were also the traditional locus for pilgrimages in China. In addition to being
host to spirits and immortals, mountains were often themselves seen as sacred entities worthy of
veneration. Hence the saying “Paying respect to the mountain by presenting incense” (chaoshan
jinxiang ). See Susan Naquin and Chü-fang Yü, “Pilgrimage in China”, idem and Chüfang Yü (eds), Pilgrims and Sacred Sites in China, Berkeley and Oxford: University of California Press
1992, p. 11 ff.
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nineteenth century, tendencies favouring inculturation were less pronounced than in
the villages. The sources used for the study of the Beijing community are nevertheless
of interest because they stress the continuing links which existed between the capital
parishes and the rural diaspora.10
Map of late imperial China’s ‘macroregions’
[G. W. Skinner, “Mobility Strategies in Late Imperial China: A Regional Systems
Analysis”, in: Carol A. Smith, Regional Analysis, New York, San Francisco and
London: Academic Press 1976, volume 1: Economic Systems, page 332]
10
The term “diaspora” is appropriate for the (late) eighteenth century, since many of the Christian
populations in the countryside can be regarded as scattered refugees from urban convert communities.
This fact notwithstanding, the countryside also had a significant - and frequently under-represented role to play during proselytisation prior to 1724. See Johannes Beckmann, “China im Blickfeld der
jesuitischen Bettelorden”, p. 195 ff.
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Map of the provincial divisions of the Qing empire (circa 1820)
[Tan Qixiang  (ed.), Zhongguo lishi dituji 
(“Historical atlas of China”), Beijing: Ditu chubanshe  1987,
volume
VIII,
pp.
3-4.]
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The Qing empire and Asia during the 18th century
[Albert Herrmann, Historical and Commercial Atlas of China, Cambridge /
Massachusetts: Harvard University Press 1935, pp. 58-59.]
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The Archives
Most of the archival evidence originates from two sources: Western
missionary correspondence, mainly kept at Roman archives, and Chinese official
documents from the former imperial archives in Beijing - mostly never used for
academic publications in China or in the West. These manuscripts are complemented
by printed reproductions of similar archival sources: Collections of memorials and
imperial commentaries, the “veritable records” (shilu ) of the Qing reign
periods, published sources from the Ba-xian archives in Sichuan, and other relevant
reproductions of documents held at the former imperial archives. Collections of
European missionary correspondence form the counterpart to these official Chinese
materials. Usually compiled by the orders which despatched the missionaries
throughout the centuries, compilations such as the Sinica Franciscana or the printed
correspondence of the Jesuit and Lazarist orders provided indispensable support for
this study.
The Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide was established in 1622 by Pope
Gregory XV as the nerve centre for the Catholic world mission, with the aim of
forming a logistical counterbalance to the colonial powers of Catholic Europe.
Although its purpose was to co-ordinate the activities of all Catholic priests in the
world, the letters sent to the Propaganda often reflect the political struggles between
the Roman missionaries and those protected by the diplomatic tutelage (padroado) of
the kings of Spain and Portugal - and later also France.11 These letters form the core of
the Archivum de Propaganda Fide (henceforth: APF). The sections used for my own
11
The complications arising out of the diplomatic tensions between the Vatican and the Catholic
empires are illustrated in Georges Mensaert, “L’Établissement de la hiérarchie catholique en Chine, de
1684 à 1721”, in: Archivum Franciscanum Historicum XLVI (1953), pp. 1-48. See also Fortunato
Margiotti, Il cattolicismo nello Shansi dalle origini al 1738, Rome: Edizioni “Sinica Franciscana”
1958, p. 60, concerning the very first instructions pursuant to the east Asian missions.
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archival work come from the sections Acta Congregationis Particularis super rebus
sinarum et indiarum orientalum, Scritture Originali della Congregazione Particolare
dell' Indie e Cina and Scritture riferite nei Congressi.12
The imperial Chinese archives have an equally eventful history. Renamed after
1949
the
“China
Number
One
Historical
Archives”
 (henceforth abbreviated as “First Historical
Archives” or FHA), the archives contain an abundance of official documents referring
to government affairs throughout the late Ming and early Qing periods. Most sources
used for this thesis consist of petitions and memorials directed to the attention of the
Yongzheng
(1723-1736),
Qianlong
(1736-1796)
and
Jiaqing
(1796-1821) emperors, located in the Grand State Council Records for Palace
Memorials .13 The petitions and memorials originate from
provincial governors, district magistrates and - most importantly - visiting officials
from
the
central
12
administration.14
For a complete overview see Nicholas Kowalski and Josef Metzler, Inventario dell'archivio storico
della Sacra Congregazione per l'Evangelizzazione dei Popoli o ‘De Propaganda Fide’ (English
parallel title: Inventory of the Historical Archives of the Sacred Congregation for the Evangelization of
Peoples or ‘De Propaganda Fide’, Rome 1983.
13 The Grand Council (junjichu ), also referred to as (Grand) State Council, was established
in 1723 by the Yongzheng emperor as the military counterpart to the secretarial institution of the
Southern Library (nanshufang). The institution quickly increased in scope and importance,
and the Councillors were often selected directly from among the officials of the Grand Secretariat
(neige ), the original “central government”. See Feng Erkang , Yongzheng zhuan
( “The
Yongzheng
emperor”),
Beijing:
Renmin
chubanshe1993, pp. 243-293. For a concise introduction to the institutions
of the Qing government, see Ch’ien Mu  (Chün-tu Hsüeh and George O. Totten, translators),
Traditional Government in Imperial China - A Critical Analysis, Hong Kong: The Chinese University
Press and New York: St Martin’s Press 1982, pp. 126-133. See also Beatrice S. Bartlett, Monarchs and
Ministers: The Grand Council in Mid-Ch’ing China, Berkeley and Oxford: University of California
Press 1991. Susan Naquin, “True Confessions”, p. 6 gives a brief summary on the role and mechanisms
of memorials.
14 The Grand State Council Records are currently subdivided into the categories Intrusion of
Imperialism  and Peasant Movements . For a fuller picture of
the archives, see Zhongguo diyi lishi dang’anguan (First Historical Archives) (eds), Zhongguo diyi lishi
dang’anguan guancang dang’an gaishu  (“A
summary of the collections of the First Historical Archives)”, Beijing: Dang’an
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3. From “missiology” to “popular religion” - A survey of relevant research
a) A mission for a European audience
The pursuit of “Sinology” in the West can be traced to the attempts of the first
Jesuit missionaries to understand the philosophical and historical context of their
missionary enterprise in China.15 The history of Chinese Christianity is hence
inextricably linked to the first descriptions Chinese civilisation composed for a
Western audience. The correspondence between the missionaries and the
representatives of Europe’s elite helped shape the idealised vision of China as an
enlightened Philosophers’ Kingdom: While intellectuals and political liberals
struggled to inculcate “scientific” values into the minds of the European aristocracy,
the precepts of Confucian rationalism - as interpreted and conveyed by the
missionaries at the imperial court in Beijing - presented themselves as a utopian
solution to European problems. The regular correspondence between the early Jesuits
and eminent figures of the European enlightenment, such as Voltaire, Leibniz and the
royalties of England, France and Prussia, were first collected in the Lettres Édifiantes
et curieuses.16 The anti-missionary decree of 1724 put an effective end to the first
period of missionary activity in China, confining the remaining representatives of
Catholicism to the city limits of the capital and to Macau. While the court
missionaries were far from inactive (tacitly nurturing links with Christian
chubanshe 1985. Readers are reminded that the FHA sources used in this thesis are
always quoted starting with the catalogue scroll (juan ) number, the original document reference
number, and the individual document sub-number. The frame number refers to the reel-position
(“page”) of microfilmed documents - in this case all cited documents. With the help of the frame
number it should be possible to identify the precise location of the passages quoted in this thesis.
15 An interesting synopsis of European sinology, based on a colloquium in Taibei in 1992, was recently
published in London. See John Cayley and Ming Wilson (eds.), Europe Studies China - Papers from an
International Conference on the History of European Sinology, London: Hanshantang 1995.
16 Charles Le Gobien (ed.), Lettres Édifiantes et curieuses de la Chine Écrites par des missionnaires
jésuites, Paris 1707 (and subsequent editions). The eighteenth century correspondence by Jesuit and
Lazarist missionaries has recently been republished as Charles Le Gobien et al. (eds), Lettres Édifiantes
et curieuses de Chine par des missionnaires jésuites 1702-1776, Paris: Garnier-Flammarion 1979. See
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communities, compiling dictionaries and translating elements of occidental knowledge
into eloquent Chinese), the flow of information from the mystical lands of the East
became increasingly tenuous. When the new heralds of Christianity arrived a century
later in the wake of the opium wars, the picture presenting itself to the European (and
by now global) audience stood in sharp contrast to the utopian images conveyed by the
Jesuits: Whereas the West was being catapulted into a bright future of science and
industry, China remained deeply entrenched in mediaeval squalor. The propagation of
Western civilisation - in conjunction with the Christian values perceived as its very
foundation - would soon be seen as Europe’s new moral mission to China.17
By the middle of the nineteenth century, most missionaries were publishing
historical accounts of their own respective pastures, ranging from isolated
communities to entire provinces. In methodological terms, the emphasis was clearly
on the collation of information relevant to the specific missionary area: Statistical data
referring to conversions and baptisms, weddings and funerals were intended to present
the mission as a successful enterprise, while missionary confrères (usually belonging
to the same order) were presented in almost hagiographic manner.18 In stark contrast
also Renée Simon (ed.), Le P. Antoine Gaubil, S.J.: Correspondence de Pékin 1722-1759, Geneva:
Droz 1970.
17 This affected, needless to say, the perception of Chinese religions in the West. The negative image of
“rural superstition” propagated by the Qing state exacerbated the negative angle taken by Western
research into popular cults well into the twentieth century. More information can be gleaned from N. J.
Girardot, “Chinese Religion and Western Scholarship”, in: James Whitehead, Yu-Ming Shaw and N.J.
Girardot (eds), China and Christianity - Historical and Future Encounters, Notre Dame / Indiana:
Notre Dame University Press 1979, p. 83 ff. The principal exception to this rule is de Groot - an
unequivocal advocate of the Christian missions in China - who also sympathised with other religious
movements in their struggle against suppression by the state. See J. J. M. de Groot, Sectarianism and
Religious Persecution, (passim).
18 A typical example of this category is the “heroic” history of the Jesuits at the imperial court by
Fernando Bortone (himself SJ): I Gesuiti alla Corte di Pechino - due secoli e mezzo di eroismo per la
diffusione della fede cattolica in Cina ... 1552-1813, Rome: Desclée and C. / Ed. Pontifici 1969. C.W.
Allan, Jesuits at the Court of Peking, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore: Kelly and Walsh 1935
provides a survey history of the period up to the early Qianlong period. A useful reference tool for the
names and writings of Jesuit missionaries during the first period of their presence in China is Joseph
Dehergne, Répertoire des Jésuites de Chine de 1552 à 1800, Rome and Paris: Bibliotheca Instituti
Historici Societatis Iesu 1973.
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to the missionaries’ predilection for publishing accounts of persecutions and
martyrdom among the Chinese believers, local Christianity was generally relegated to
a position of lesser relevance. If this in retrospect seems startling, the relative neglect
of Chinese Christianity in the missiological accounts of the nineteenth century
becomes less enigmatic when the often strained relationship between Western
missionaries and leading representatives of the Chinese communities is taken into
account.
The Catholic debate as to whether or not to ordain Chinese priests was long
and tortuous, centring on their perceived ability to grasp the depths of Christian
theology and to master the all-important Latin. The cultural discrepancies were
certainly considerable, and were further complicated by the latent racism and cultural
incompatibilities of the Europeans involved in the China mission.19 Despite pleas
from important members of the Roman hierarchy, most missionaries were not ready,
not even by the end of the eighteenth century, to accept their Chinese confrères as full
equals. On the contrary, many Europeans expressed serious objections, stating that
those who “had familiarised themselves over a long period of time with the minds and
character of the Chinese missionaries, generally regarded these as being incapable of
administering a big diocese”.20 A letter by the attaché of the Archbishop of Goa from
the year 1806 reveals similar sources of tension between the European representatives
19
Expressed through comments such as “.... superbia, tanto commune nei Cinesi”. See the letter by E.
D. di San Goldino to Rome from Macau, October 1806, kept at the APF as document SC, series III,
Cina e Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, ff. 195-196. Much of the eighteenth-century missionary
correspondence remarking on the eligibility - and desirability - of Chinese Christians as priests would in
more modern times have been classified as ‘racist’. Their religious fervour, according to contemporary
European commentaries, stood in contrast to the perceived lack in doctrinal reliability. A typical
example is the debate on “prêtres indigènes non-latins” reproduced in Léonide Guiot, La Mission du
Su-tchuen au XVIIIme siècle, pp. 127-128 and 290-291.
20 The issue was raised by Cardinal Borgia, who attempted to alter the Vatican’s policy on the issue.
The document in the original: .... i quali per lunga esperienza conoscono il genio, e carattere di questi
sacerdoti cinesi, rispetati generalmente incapaci al buon governo di una vasta Diocesi. See his letter to
the Propaganda sent in 1787, APF document SOCP, Indie Orientali, 1817, folium 13.
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of the church and the Chinese missionaries. The Chinese are described by the attaché
as being prone to bickering among each other, overly interested in money matters and
generally regarded as being “arrogant”. The correspondence between Philip Huang
and the Chinese students of the College in Naples further highlights attitudes
reflecting the mistrust towards the Chinese clerics.21 It is even doubtful whether those
European clerics who publicly backed the appointment of Chinese priests to important
offices would have been prepared to cede the invigilation of doctrinal affairs to local
priests.22 Chinese Christians, in particular when given the opportunity to visit Europe,
were finally also not immune from “culture shock”, and developed at times
remarkably erratic forms of behaviour.23
Many (Catholic) missionaries during the middle of the nineteenth century were
far removed from the stereotype of heroic martyrs, but chose a foreign posting because
of the material benefits a “dangerous” mission field unfailingly yielded upon
retirement. Such missionaries were unlikely to enter a time-consuming discourse with
their new parishioners, and concentrated on reporting statistical data reflecting the
21
See Giacomo di Fiore, Lettere di Missionari dalla Cina (1761-1775) - La vita quotidiana nelle
missioni attraverso il carteggio di Emiliano Palladini e Filippo Huang con il Collegio dei Cinesi in
Napoli, Napoli: Istituto Universitario Orientale 1995. References to anti-Chinese sentiments - and very
concrete forms of discrimination - can be found throughout this compilation of missionary
correspondence, for instance on p. 95.
22 To a certain degree, even the Catholic church after the Second Vatican Council can be seen as being
loath the let the local churches take control over the interpretation of theological issues. One of the chief
guardians of religious orthodoxy within the Roman church, Cardinal Ratzinger, recently stressed that
the world mission should develop within the same parameters as evolved in the West. See the article by
Fiona Bowie, entitled “The Inculturation Debate in Africa”, in Studies in World Christianity, V-1
(1999), pp. 66-92 (referring to A. Shorter, Towards a Theory of Inculturation, London: Geoffrey
Chapman 1988, p. 237).
23 This certainly applied to Philip Huang’s unpredictable and often offensive demeanour, and
eventually also his proverbial tendency of reinventing the true course of events - filippade, in the
terminology of his opponents. See Giacomo di Fiore, “Emiliano Palladini e i missionari del Collegio dei
Cinesi”, in: F. D’Arelli and A. Tamburello (eds.), La Missione Cattolica in Cina tra i secoli XVII-XVIII
- Emiliano Palladini 1733 - 1793), Congregatio della Sacra Famiglia di Gesù Cristo, Procuratore
della Sacra Famiglia de Propaganda Fide a Macao, Napoli: Istituto Universitario Orientale 1995, p.
268. Sources describing similar patterns of behaviour relating to John Hu’s sojourn in France are
analysed in Jonathan Spence, The Question of Hu, London: Faber 1988, pp. 70-105.
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success of their personal mission.24 This type of literature was both Euro-centric and
Mission-centred, and came to dominate the second era of western missionary activity
in China. Accounts from individual missions fill entire libraries, produced by both
Catholic and Protestant missionaries.25 But the most comprehensive accounts of the
state of Christianity during the Opium War period are perhaps the recollections of the
Abbé Huc (1813-1860),26 as well as the History of Christian Missions in China by K.
S. Latourette.27 Whereas Huc placed much emphasis on the obstacles (French)
Catholic missionaries faced despite the recently concluded Treaty of Nanjing (1842),
Latourette, writing in the early Republican period, had a different historical vantage
point: The excesses against converts and missionaries belonged to the history books,
whereas the missions of the Nanjing decade had to justify both their existence in
general and their presence in China against a strident ideological opposition.28
An extraordinary representative of “missiology” is Jan Jakob Maria de Groot’s
Sectarianism and Religious Persecution in China - A Page in the History of Religions,
24
While Protestant missionaries were frequently religious firebrands, passionate about their beliefs and
sincere in their interest in the Chinese people they sought to convert, their vision was often as much
biased as that of their Catholic competitors - with major exceptions, such as Robert Morrison (17821834) and Karl Friedrich Gützlaff (1803-1851). Cf. Herman Schlyter, Der Chinamissionar Karl
Gützlaff und seine Heimatbasis, Lund: C. W. K. Gleerup 1976, pp. 15-19. Gützlaff’s determination is
reflected in his attempt to convert the Buddhist monks of Putuo, during the 1830s. See Chü-fang Yü,
“P’u-t’o Shan: Pilgrimage and the Creation of the Chinese Potalaka”, in: S. Naquin and C.-f. Yü (eds),
Pilgrims and Sacred Sites, p. 242, note 30.
25 The occasion of the centennial anniversary of Robert Morrison’s missionary activity produced a
number of retrospective publications, mainly focusing on the Protestant missions. See, for instance, D.
MacGillivray (ed.), A Century of Protestant Missions in China (1807-1907): Being the Centenary
Conference Historical Volume, Shanghai: American Presbyterian Mission Press 1907.
26 Evarist-Régis Huc, Souvenirs d’un voyage dans la Tartarie, le Thibet et la Chine pendant les années
1844, 1845 et 1846, Beijing: Imprimerie des Lazaristes 1924. Huc’s report was reprinted and translated
several times. For this thesis the English version Souvenirs of a Journey through Tartary, Tibet and
China During the Years 1844, 1845 and 1846, published in Beijing by the Imprimerie des Lazaristes in
1931 was used. A more specific publication is his Le christianisme en Chine, en Tartarie et au Thibet,
Paris: Gaume Frères 1857-58.
27 Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christian Missions in China, London: Society for the
Promotion of Christianity / New York: Macmillan 1929. Latourette’s account of the China mission was
followed by a momentous publication in seven volumes, entitled A History of the Expansion of
Christianity, New York: Harper and Brothers 1937-45.
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dedicated “to all missionaries of every Christian creed labouring in China”.29 De
Groot’s monograph made such extensive and detailed use of the relevant primary
source materials available at the turn of the nineteenth century that it becomes in itself
a highly suitable source for research. The author’s most important thesis is that the
phenomenon of sectarian proliferation during the latter half of the Qing can be seen as
a consequence of the state’s determination to wipe out “heresy”, a policy which
created a situation which the dynasty could eventually no longer control.30 De Groot
saw the state officials’ obsession with orthodoxy as being aimed at eradicating the
very existence of unsanctioned popular religious systems. For the first time in
missiological discourse, Christianity was specifically included among the other,
“heathen” victims of the state’s anti-heretical zeal: The slaughter of Eight Trigrams
followers in Zhili is illustrated in pitiful congruence with the execution of Christian
missionaries in Fu’an.31 In an attempt to explain why the late Chinese empire proved
so reluctant to protect the missions from the hostile mob, De Groot presented his
interpretation in unequivocal terms: [The Chinese state being] “the most intolerant,
the most persecuting of all earthly governments ... must a forteriori be hostile to
Christianity and the despised ‘foreign devils’ who introduced it.”32 His observations,
however, also bear the marks of their time. The “fanatic, bloody and cruel” Chinese
state is contrasted with a “civilised” European world order.33 Secondly, and despite
the author’s repeated affirmations of writing for all persecuted religious movements,
28 The period of the Self-Strengthening movement is analysed in Paul A. Cohen, China and
Christianity: The Missionary Movement and the Growth of Chinese Antiforeignism 1860-1870,
Cambridge/Massachusetts: Harvard University Press 1963.
29 See J. J. M. de Groot, Sectarianism and Religious Persecution in China, frontispiece.
30 Ibidem, pp. 521-525 (commenting on the Taiping uprising), and p. 565 (reemphasising the link
between state persecution and Chinese Christianity).
31 Ibidem, pp. 473-474 and 285-286, respectively.
32 Ibidem, p. 3.
33 Ibidem, p. 263, for instance, but evident from passages throughout the œuvre.
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there is a clear missionary bias, favouring sects opposing “idolatry”, which the author
regarded as being more prone for conversion to Christianity.34 The “missiological”
nature of Sectarianism and Religious Persecution is also obvious in as much as all
chosen sources bar one exemplify the experience of Western missionaries. An
investigation into the existence of an indigenous, popular expression of Christianity
thus had to wait until further archival evidence would become available.35
Despite de Groot’s contribution, most twentieth-century authors continued to
regard the entire century in between the Yongzheng edict and the treaties of the midnineteenth century as a period of shameful loss.36 The nineteenth century tradition of
missiological writing - emphasising the achievements of the Western missions, while
placing the agency of Chinese Christianity firmly into the hands of the foreign
missionaries rather than indigenous believers - created a mould which few historians
of Chinese Christianity dared to alter. For as long as the vast majority of authors
consisted of clerics from the West, any change had to emanate from the Western
churches themselves. A rather astonishing fact is that the missiological tradition of
accounting for the development of Chinese Christianity was copied by Chinese
historians until the end of the twentieth century. In part, this may be due to the
Western educational background (missionary schools and Christian universities) of
eminent Christian historians, such as Chen Yuan (1880-1971) or Fang Hao
34
In particular referring to Xiantian Buddhism. See ibidem, pp. 195-196.
In de Groot’s own words: “Very little seems to have been written about this episode in the
persecution of Christianity. Even Huc is silent on this point. .... More particulars may have been
published somewhere, but we have not found them.” See ibidem, p. 290. “Episode” refers to the fate of
China’s Christians around the middle of the eighteenth century.
36 “Dark years”, in a frequently employed term used by historians of the (Catholic) China mission. See
Columba Cary-Elwes, China and the Cross: Studies in Mission History, London: Longmans, Green and
Co. 1957, pp. 179-181.
35
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 (1910-1980).37 It could also be due to an unwillingness to criticise their
foreign confrères while their very presence was threatened by a hostile public opinion
and by communist insurgents. In any case, the vast majority of Chinese writings on
Christianity in China follow the same fixation on the achievements and martyrdom of
Christian missionaries which characterised the missiological relations of the West.38
b) The Chinese perspective
With reports of the atrocities of the First World War reaching China - and
more directly colonised regions - the European claim to moral superiority lost its
lustre. The churches, and in particular the foreign missionaries, were under increasing
pressure to interact with populations who felt in no way “inferior” to their colonial
masters.39 Earlier models of clerical self-administration were used by Chinese
Chen Yuan  is perhaps best remembered as the editor of Kangxi yu Luoma shijie guanxi
wenshu
yingyinben

("Diplomatic
correspondence between the Kangxi emperor and Rome"), Taibei: Wenhai chubanshe
 1974 [originally published Beiping 1932]. Fang Hao , prolific writer of
historical and ethical publications concerning Christianity, contributed unlike any other scholar to the
historiography of his own religion in China. See Fang Hao , Zhongguo tianzhujiaoshi luncong
 ("Collection of historical essays on Catholicism in China"), Shanghai:
Commercial Press (Shangwu yinshuguan 1 947, as well as his biographical
Zhongguo tianzhu shi renwu zhuan ( "Biographies of historical figures
relating to Chinese Catholicism"), Beijing: Zhonghua shuju  1988.
38 A detailed account of the missiological approach of historiography can be found in two recent
articles, from both shores of the Taiwan Strait. The article by Wang Meixiu , “Xifang de
zhongguo jidujiao yanjiu ,” (“Western research on Chinese
Christianity”) in: Shijie zongjiao yanjiu  (“Research on world religions”,
Beijing), 1995-4, pp. 132-139 can be seen as representative of the interest in pre-revolutionary
Christianity in the PRC. Taiwanese scholarship, however, continued in the tradition of the Chinese
republic, producing a plethora a writings on Chinese Christianity. See, for instance, Huang Yi-lung
, “Mingmo qingchu tianzhujiao chuan hua shi yanjiu de huigu yu zhanwang
” (“A retrospective and outlook
on research carried out on the proliferation of Christianity in China during the late Ming and early
Qing”), in: Xin shixue ( New History), VII-1 (March 1996), pp. 137-169.
39 The International Missionary Council in Jerusalem (1928) reflected this change. The conference
concluded that the missions should serve - and be under the leadership of - the indigenous populations.
See Ling Oi Ki, The Changing Role of the British Protestant Missionaries in China, 1945-1952,
Madison/New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press and London: Associated University Press
1999, pp. 39-40.
37
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Christians in order to encourage the growth of their missions.40 Following the end of
the Second World War, the creation of a new international situation and the rapid
disintegration of the colonial world order, the Euro-centrism of the nineteenth century
underwent its final transformation.41 Other religious (Islam, Hinduism) and
philosophical (Communism) concepts presented themselves as powerful alternatives
to the message of the Christian foreigners. This, perhaps, became nowhere more
obvious than in China, which was emerging from decades of internal warfare and
influence by foreign powers.42 The missionaries who had established themselves from
the middle of the nineteenth century onwards now saw themselves challenged by
secular ideologies, draining support for the Christian missions and mobilising opinion
against the large-scale presence of foreigners per se.43 The Christian churches had to
40
This refers in particular to the Presbyterian experience during the nineteenth century. See C. P.
William, The Ideal of the Self-Governing Church - A Study of Victorian Missionary Strategy, Leiden,
Boston and Cologne: E. J. Brill 1990.
41 The first Chinese Christian to act as the General Secretary of China’s YMCA was Wang Zhengting
(C. T. Wang), elected in 1915. By 1920, some thirty percent of its members were Chinese nationals.
The National Christian Council meeting in 1922 gave itself the authority to “advise” all missionary
societies operating in China, with the aim of promoting an interdenominational and indigenising
approach. See Lian Xi, The Conversion of Missionaries: Liberalism in American Protestant Missions in
China, 1907-1932, Pennsylvania Park: Pennsylvania State University Press 1997, p. 158. A final
turning point for the China missions was reached with the Motte Conference (Shanghai, 1926), which
declared indigenisation as the key to a successful future of the churches in China. See Ling Oi Ki, The
Changing Role of the British Protestant Missionaries, pp. 39-40.
42 The relationship between the missions and China’s intellectuals during the second half of the
nineteenth century was often contradictory. In the immediate aftermath of the Taiping wars, the literati
of the Jiangnan launched a “kulturkampf” against the missionaries, as part of a wider campaign against
heterodox cults. See Leslie Ronald Marchant, British Protestant Christian Evangelists and the 1898
Reform Movement in China, Nedlands: University of Western Australia / Centre for Asian Studies
1975, p. 13. Earlier attempts to appeal to the scholar-official elite having failed, the missionaries
concentrated on the poor. See Gael Graham, Gender, Culture and Christianity: American Protestant
Mission Schools in China, 1880-1930, New York: P. Lang 1995, pp. 10-11. At the same time, many
intellectuals who interpreted the perceived strength of the West as a consequence of its religio-cultural
background viewed Christianity, especially in its contemporary Anglo-American form (“Protestant
work ethic”) as a way out of China’s national predicament. Although the total number of converts
remained negligible, some twenty-five percent of delegates in the Provisional National Assembly were
Christian converts. See Yu-Ming Shaw, An American Missionary in China: John Leighton Stuart and
Chinese-American Relations, Cambridge/Massachusetts: Council on East Asian Studies (Harvard
University) and Harvard University Press 1992, pp. 30-31.
43 Mainly in central and southern China - the anti-missionary environment of the 1920s is analysed in
Jessie Gregory Lutz, Chinese Politics and Christian Missions: The anti-Christian Movements of 192028, Notre Dame/Indiana: Cross Cultural Publications 1988 and in Yip Ka-che, The Anti-Christian
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act quickly. In particular the Protestant churches, historically the product of a
vernacularisation of Catholicism, now accepted the imperative of ‘indigenisation’.44
Many missionaries went beyond theology, by advocating the implementation of a
“social gospel” in response to the radical changes in world politics after 1918.45
For the Roman Catholic church, a longer history, and the collective memory of
the Rites Controversy meant that change was less imminent.46 The long process of
redefining the role of its mission began among Catholics in the former French,
Spanish and Portuguese colonies and culminated in 1968 with the conclusion of the
Second Vatican Council. But while the majority of believers lived in the developing
world, the Church in its structures and liturgy was still very much a European
creation. By accepting the equal value of (most) rites antedating the introduction of
Christianity in the indigenous cultures, the Catholic church attempted to reverse the
flow towards secular alternatives in the developing world, in particular towards
Movements of 1920-27: With Special Reference to the Experience of Protestant Missions, New York:
Columbia University 1970.
44 The body of literature dealing with the missions during the republican period deserves more space
than can be allocated in this study. For a summary of recent publications on the topic, see Jessie G.
Lutz, “Chinese Christianity and China Missions: Works Published since 1970”, in: International
Bulletin of Missionary Research, XX-3 (1996), pp. 98-106. The republican period is illustrated - in
survey form - in Jean Charbonnier, Histoire des Chrétiens de Chine, Paris: Désclée 1992, pp. 281-314.
45 Not all missionaries embraced the notion of indigenisation wholeheartedly. Andrew Walls observed
that the Presbyterian missionaries from Edinburgh expected their missionaries to interact with the
converts as if they had been at home in Scotland, and without any greater knowledge of the local
cultures. See Andrew Walls, The Missionary Movement in Christian History - Studies in the
Transmission of Faith, Maryknoll/New York: Orbis Books 1996 (preface). This is confirmed in Lian
Xi, The Conversion of Missionaries, pp. 156-158. As late as in the 1950s, the eminent missionary
Kenneth Scott Latourette cautioned against an unreflected drive towards indigenisation. See K. S.
Latourette, “The Light of History on Current Missionary Methods”, in: International Revue of
Missions, XLII-4 (1953), pp. 138-143, cited in Ling Oi Ki, The Changing Role of the British Protestant
Missionaries, p. 208.
For more details on the concept of the Social Gospel, see Cui Dan, The Cultural Contribution
of British Protestant Missionaries and British-American Cooperation to China’s National Development
during the 1920s, Lanham: University of America Press 1998, pp. 7-23. Reformist tendencies within
the early twentieth century missions - and the hostile reaction of secular Westernising intellectuals - are
also analysed in Lian Xi, The Conversion of Missionaries, pp. 151-156.
46 Embarrassment at the historic decision to ban the traditional ancestor rites - as well as a certain
reluctance to open all relevant archives - was evident during the debate preceding the rescinding of the
ban. See François Bontinck, La lutte autour de la liturgie chinoise aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles, Louvain
and Paris: Université Lovanium de Léopoldville 1962, pp. vii-ix.
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ideologies of socialist origin. A much belated reaction by the Vatican to the changing
international and intellectual landscape was to lift the restrictions on ancestral worship
during the 1940s47 - never mind that by this time socialist agit-prop educators had
already started to establish a foothold in the countryside, urging the rural population to
abjure from any expression of “superstition”.48 The greater autonomy of the Chinese
clergy gained in this context was stymied when the CCP gained control over mainland
China in 1949, resulting in an exodus of leading Christian intellectuals and clerics
alike. For the first time since the 1840s, foreign missionaries were prohibited from
proselytising in mainland China.
The last vestiges of Jiang Jieshi’s Republic, situated on the island of Taiwan,
provided a rallying point for foreign missionaries intent on continuing their mission
among the Chinese. Encouraged by the success of the Christian missions in other parts
of East Asia - Japan and Korea in particular - the number of Taiwanese converts
increased dramatically.49 The R.o.C. government was particularly keen on welcoming
47
The process of lifting the centuries-old ban on ancestral worship culminated on 8 December 1939 in
an edict by the Congregation of the Propaganda Fide. The measure, propagated by Pius XII, could only
be gradually communicated to the Catholic communities in China due to war. See C. Cary-Elwes, China
and the Cross, pp. 244-245.
48 In general, the policies of the Nationalist Guomindang  (GMD) concerning the
eradication of “superstition” differed very little from the Communist competitors. In particular in
between May 1919 and 1927, both parties were strongly influenced by Soviet Russian advisers, who
helped the GMD-CCP alliance channel popular anti-Christian and xenophobic sentiments into “antiimperialist” agitation. See Yip Ka-che, The Anti-Christian Movement in China, pp. 113, 174-179 and
261. Anti-missionary periodicals and cultural-political organisations - such as the “Great Alliance
against Cultural Aggression” Fan-wenhuaqinlüe datongmeng - were
frequently jointly operated by supporters of both parties. See Jessie Gregory Lutz, Chinese Politics and
Christian Missions, pp. 216-218.
Also akin to the CCP, local Nationalist officials were at times openly hostile to foreign
missionaries attempting to speak up for non-Han communities in ethnically mixed areas. See T’ien Juk’ang, Peaks of Faith: Protestant Mission in Revolutionary China, Leiden: E. J. Brill 1993, pp. 53, 64
and 109. The uncompromising attitude of the GMD towards ethnic minorities - and the tendency of the
latter to seek missionary protection - remained in place well into final decades of the twentieth century.
See Ralph R. Covell, Pentecost on the Hills in Taiwan: The Christian Faith among the Original
Inhabitants, Pasadena / California: Hope Publishing House 1998, p. 290 as well as his earlier work The
Liberating Gospel in China: The Christian Faith among China’s Minority Peoples, Grand Rapids /
Michigan: Baker Books 1995.
49 See R. R. Covell, Pentecost of the Hills in Taiwan, pp. 184-208 and p. 243 ff. - with particular
reference to American missionary work among the minority populations of Taiwan. A rather negative
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missionaries after 1949, since a majority represented evangelical movements in the
United States, Taiwan’s staunchest ally in its fight against Communism. Most
missionaries propagated Christianity in the only version they were familiar with, i.e. in
its unadulterated Western - more precisely: North American - expression. Works
published by Chinese Christians during the second half of the century reflect their
strong reliance on Western churches, the majority being “missiological” accounts of
Chinese Christianity and translations of foreign religious writings.50 The 1980s saw an
intensification of tendencies towards “indigenous” (bentu - literally “from our
own soil” or bense  “of original character”) forms of the Christian religion.
Perhaps in analogy to the political soul-searching for an independent national identity,
Taiwanese Christians strove to create a public discourse on the changing nature of
their belief.51
The abundance of literature produced in Taiwan, and also in the territories of
Hong Kong and Macau, stands in stark contrast to the situation in mainland China.
Following the nationalisation of all major publishing houses after 1949, the few
publications on Christianity that did emerge from the printing presses had to conform
to the government’s policies on religion. True to its ideological foundations of
characterisation of the GMD can be found in Paul A. Varg, Missionaries, Chinese and Diplomats: The
American Protestant Missionary Movement, 1890-1952, Princeton: Princeton University Press 1958,
pp. 287-288 and 292-298.
50 A count of publications on Christianity since 1949, based on the (R.o.C.) National Library
compilation of books printed in Taiwan (cf. any issue the “Bulletin of the National Central Library
(Taibei) Guoli zhongyang tushuguan guankan ), reveals the extent
of borrowing from Western sources: hundreds of titles European or North American names are quoted
as the original authors, not counting tracts directly produced and distributed by foreign missionaries.
51 Most relevantly in a series of academic colloquia, which began in 1988 at Tamkang [Danjiang
] University. The first academic results are presented in Lin Zhiping , Jidujiao yu
zhongguo bensehua lunwenji  (“Christianity and Chinese
inculturation: selected articles”), Taibei: Yuzhouguang chubanshe 1990. These
tendencies are the topic of Lam Wing-hung, Chinese Theology in Construction, Pasadena/California:
William Carey Library 1983.
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dialectic materialism,52 the CCP also continued two thousand years of Confucian state
propaganda against “superstitious practices”.53 The majority of Christians in “Red
China” accepted the new ideological conditions by bowing to the principle of the
“Three Self”, pledging to sever all links with foreign political and clerical
institutions.54 One of the unintended side-effects of this policy for China’s official
Catholic church was that the reform movement within Roman Catholicism passed
China by. This refers in particular to the Second Vatican Council, which implemented
new principles of liturgical vernacularisation and indigenisation. For Chinese
historians the restrictive policy had two consequences: The Christian enterprise in
Chinese history was, firstly, interpreted as a mere by-product of Western imperialist
intrusion. As a precondition for publication, any descriptions of missionary history
thus had to reflect the official condemnation of Western imperialism.55 Publications
on Christianity, as well as on all other phenomena of religious nature, were secondly
subject to a strict vetting process which disqualified any expressions of religious
devotion as “un-scientific”, and hence as non-compatible with the enlightened policies
52
Developed in the nineteenth century by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, as an atheist alternative to
Hegelianism. Marxian views on religion and its role in the state are outlined in Friedrich Engels
(translated by Alec West), The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, New York:
International Publishers 1972.
53 Atheism is known to the Chinese as the “Teaching of the Non-Existence of Spirits” (wushen jiao
). The classics, in particular the Xunzi and Hanfeizi , contain many
references to simple-minded farming folk afraid of their own shadows. For a detailed introduction, see
Ya Hanzhang and Wang Yousan (eds.), Zhongguo wushenlun shi
(“History of atheism in China”), Beijing: Zhongguo shehuikexueyuan
chubanshe ( Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Press) 1992, in
particular pp. 732-751 for a general introduction to the Qing period. The anthology contains essays by
well-known philosophers, but does not take into account “contradictions” in other texts not represented
in this publication. Atheism is also one of the ideological pillars of the Chinese Communist Party. On Li
Dazhao’s and Chen Duxiu’s belief in “scientific materialism”, see ibidem, pp. 1004-1047.
54 The “Three Self” policies are: Self-Governing, Self-Support and Self-Propagation. All three
components were intended to render the church structures in the People’s Republic of China as
“autonomous”, i.e. financially and politically distinct from Western organisations, as possible. Cf. John
Tong’s article “The Church from 1949 to 1990”, in Jean-Paul Wiest and Edmond Tang (eds), The
History of the Catholic Church in China, Maryknoll / New York: Orbis Books 1994, pp. 7-27.
55 Most FHA sources on Christianity during the Ming and Qing periods are, in fact, catalogued as part
of the category “Intrusion of Imperialism” (Diguozhuyi qinlüe lei ).
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of the new socialist era. During the early of CCP rule, religious movements were often
closely linked to political opposition - epitomised by the Dalai Lama - and were
therefore regarded with much suspicion by the state authorities. This directly affected
the academic research of religious history: Access to archives was severely restricted
for foreign and Chinese researchers alike, and even the academic institutions entitled
to carry out research into religious affairs were subjected to thorough scrutiny.56 In
June 1982, the CCP organ “Red Flag” Hongqi) published the Central
Committee’s “Document 19”, which stated that certain religious movements,
including Christianity, had a positive role to play in the reconstruction of China’s
society, following the devastations of the Cultural Revolution.57 But it was not until
the middle of Deng Xiaoping’s years of reform that publications on the subject of
Christianity in China began to become available - albeit initially only to a small
academic audience.58 The relatively limited interest in Chinese Christianity began to
widen significantly during the following decade, along with that in other popular
56
Contacts with established Chinese historians and with the Institute for World Religions (Shijie
zongjiao yanjiusuo ), Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (Beijing),
confirm this observation. Only in recent years the state’s attitude to religious studies seems to have
shown signs of relaxation, while archives are switching towards increasingly commercial admission
criteria.
57 The widely-circulated document was entitled “The Basic Viewpoint and Policy on the Religious
Question during the Socialist Period in China”. For a ‘Three-Self’ viewpoint, see Luo Zhufeng (ed),
Religion under Socialism in China, Armonk and London: M. E. Sharpe 1991, p. xvi; otherwise see
Duan Qi, “Contexualization in the Contemporary Chinese Church” in Philip Wickeri and Lois Cole,
Christianity and Modernization: A Chinese Debate, Hong Kong: DAGA Press 1995, pp. 49-50.
58 The first publications were local in nature, concentrating on remnants of Christian history in the
vicinity of the contributing scholars (such as the Jesuit churches and cemeteries in Beijing), as well as
publications of limited circulation for the consumption of local congregations. See, for instance, Lin
Hua , Gao Zhiyu et al., Lishi yihen: Li madou ji mingqing xifang chuanjiaoshi mudi
( “Traces of history: The tombs of
Matteo Ricci and of [other] Western
missionaries during the Ming and Qing”), Beijing:
Zhongguo renmin daxue chubanshe 1994 [reprint of an earlier
unpublished version produced at the People’s University]. The history of Catholicism in Shanghai is
summarised in Ruan Renze and Gao Zhennong , Shanghai zongjiaoshi
(“A religious history of Shanghai”), Shanghai: Shanghai Academy of Social
Sciences Press Shanghai shehui kexueyuan chubanshe  1994,
pp. 609-786, with some interesting remarks on the period during the century of prohibition on pp. 623629. See also Norman Walling, “The Catholic Church in Shanghai: Yesterday and Today”, in: Tripod,
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religious movements.59 The enthusiastic response from China’s publishing houses can
also be explained through the commercialisation of the sector: Writing about popular
(religious) customs may in many cases be regarded as a lucrative opportunity to sell to
a popular audience. To summarise: Both in Taiwan and in the People’s Republic
factors are currently at work favouring the formation of inculturated expressions of
Christianity. This has led to a renewed interest, both journalistic and academic, in the
nature of Christianity in general and in its development in China in particular. For the
first time since the return of Western missionaries in the nineteenth century, Chinese
academics are thus taking an interest in Christianity as a Chinese movement, relying
to a diminishing degree on the historical and doctrinal interpretations of Western
missiologists.
c) China’s Christian history discovered by social science
The events of the later decades of the twentieth century also had a profound
impact on the self-perception of Western historians with regard to China as the object
of their research. Sinologists intent on breaking the philological mould welcomed the
swift adoption of research methods “borrowed” from the social sciences anthropology and sociology in particular. Paris - home to the Annales - also produced
one of the first sinologists who re-examined the archival evidence on the development
of Christianity in China. Chine et christianisme, authored by Jacques Gernet in 1982,
consciously presented a “Chinese viewpoint” to the history of the missions in the late
pp. 33-44, as well as the following article by Shen Shiwei, “Shanghai’s Old Church”, in: Tripod (Ding
), August 1995, pp. 45-56 (translated by Walling).
59 The number of publications on (orthodox) Buddhism and Daoism has increased drastically since the
mid-1980s. Introductions to expressions of popular religiosity (“superstition”) are proving even more
popular - including geomantics (fengshui), palmistry (zhangwen ) and physiognomy
(xiangshu ), clairvoyance (shenshili ) as well as the general belief in ghosts and
spirits (gui-shen wenhua ).
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Ming empire, by extending the quest for primary sources into hitherto unused archival
documents.60 Such sources had already been used by researchers of missiological
background, as proof of the hostility of the Mandarins against Europe’s missionaries.
Gernet now employed these materials in order to interpret the “reaction” of the highly
educated Chinese officials to the teachings from the West.61 Gernet’s prime examples
are “A Collection of Writings for the Destruction of Vicious Doctrines” (Poxieji
), “A Collection of Writings for the Refutation of Heresy” (Pixieji
), “Helping [the Holy Dynasty] in Refutation” ([Shengchao] zuopi []
) and “It Cannot be Tolerated Any More” (Budeyi ).62 All four
publications were produced between 1623 and 1664 in the Lower Yangtse Region, the
heartland of Chinese Christianity, composed by authors who had a strong sense of
cultural identity. Whereas the Poxieji (1640) was the editorial outcome of a variety of
anti-Christian motivations,63 the Pixieji (1643) - though intellectually disguised as a
60
For a critical appraisal of Gernet’s analysis of the available source materials - in particular with
reference to Japanese sources not included by Gernet, see Adrianus C. Dudink, “The Sheng-ch’ao tsop’i (1623) of Hsü Ta-shou”, in: Leonard Blussé and Harriet T. Zurndorfer (eds), Conflict and
Accommodation in Early Modern East Asia: Essays in Honour of Erik Zürcher, Leiden/New
York/Cologne: E. J. Brill 1993, pp. 94-140. The author emphasises the selective quality of Gernet’s
work, and points to earlier critical reviews (cited in Erik Zürcher, Nicolas Standaert and Adrianus C.
Dudink, Bibliography of the Jesuit Mission in China (ca. 1580 - ca. 1680), Leiden: Centre of NonWestern Studies, Leiden University 1991, p. 20). Gernet defended his interpretation in “Problèmes
d’acclimatation du christianisme dans la Chine du XVIIe siècle”, in: Alain Forest and Yoshiharu
Tsuboii (eds), Catholicisme et sociétés asiatiques, Tokyo: Sophia University 1988, pp. 35-46.
An equivalent analysis of the contemporary (intellectual) Japanese reaction can be found in
George Elison, Deus Destroyed - The Image of Christianity in Modern Japan, Cambridge /
Massachusetts: Harvard University Press 1973. The crucial anti-Christian writings of the early
Tokugawa period - Ha Daiusu , Kengiruku , Kirishitan Monogatari
a nd Ha Kirishitan - are fully reproduced in translated form
(second part of Elison’s monograph, pp. 257-392). In particular, Elison’s analysis of the (double)
apostate Fabian Fucan, Jesuit friar and later the author of significant anti-Christian writings, is
noteworthy (see ibidem pp. 142-184).
61 The title China and the Christian Impact: A Conflict of Cultures was chosen by the author as the title
of the English translation in order to further underline Gernet’s theory of cultural incompatibility.
62 In addition, Dudink introduces the compilation Yuandao pixie shuo (1636). See
A. C. Dudink, “The Sheng-ch’ao tso-p’i”, pp. 98-104.
63 The editor of the Poxie ji was a Buddhist layman with the name Xu Changzhi (15821672). The “Confucian” alias of the Buddhist monk Ouyi Zhixu was Zhong Shisheng  (zi:
Zhenzhi). Based on Dudink, “The Sheng-ch’ao tso-p’i”, pp. 96-98 and 104-107, Timothy
Barrett recently highlighted the connection between both texts and Buddhism. See T. H. Barrett,
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Confucian refutation - was written (predominantly) by the Buddhist scholar Ouyi
Zhixu  (1599-1655). The Zuopi (1623)64 author Xu Dashou 
was the son of the eminent Ming statesman Xu Fuyuan  (1535-1604),65
while the author of the Budeyi, Yang Guangxian  (1597-1669), was the
main exponent of the anti-Christian elite discourse during the late Ming period. All
three documents concentrate on reducing the significance of the Jesuits’ contribution
to the mathematical and technological knowledge of the Ming court. They also seek to
undermine Christianity’s theological foundations, as interpreted by the authors, by
revealing the un-Confucian - and hence “un-Chinese” - nature of the religion. How
could any godhead expect a filial son to prefer monastic solitude to the duty of
bestowing his parents with children? Why did it take the Western god several
millennia before making his appearance in the most important civilisation on earth?
And why did the foreigners’ genealogies of the first centuries of humanity not
correspond to the records of the Xia, Shang and Zhou? The intellectuals furthermore
remarked on the iconoclastic tendencies of the missionaries who, in their blind hatred
of all things Buddhist, advocated the closure of shrines and temples. These temples,
however, also harboured the “Ten Thousand Years Tablet” dedicated to the emperor’s
longevity. Opposing Buddhist temples was thus equivalent to questioning the link
“Ignorance and the Technology of Information: Some Comments on China’s Knowledge of the West on
the Eve of the ‘Western Invasion’”, in: Asian Affairs: Journal of the Royal Society for Asian Affairs,
XXVI-1 (February 1995), p. 26.
64 Gernet placed the publication in the years between 1633 and 1639. The year 1623 is derived from
Dudink’s belief that Xu Dashou composed the refutation under the fresh impression of the (second)
Nanjing persecution (1616-1617) and immediately after the White Lotus rebellion of 1622.
Interestingly, Dudink suggests the likelihood of Xu Dashou as a disillusioned former Christian convert
or catechumen, fully au fait with the rituals and beliefs of China’s Christians. This hypothesis would
explain Xu Dashou’s zeal, expressed in the writing, publishing and distribution of his work. See
Dudink, “The Sheng-ch’ao tso-p’i”, p. 95, as well as pp. 130-133. The personal background of Xu
Dashou is relatively obscure. For a brief biographical introduction, see A. C. Dudink, “Christianity in
Late Ming China - Five Studies”, PhD thesis: University of Leiden 1995, pp. 240-242.
65 Biographical information is almost non-existent. See Dudink, “The Sheng-ch’ao tso-p’i”, pp. 107109.
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between popular religiosity and the quasi-divine position of the emperor - and thus of
his authority as such. To the mental corruption sowed into the minds of imperial
subjects, the critical intellectuals added the charge of subversion against the authority
of the imperial throne.66 For this reason - and this is Jacques Gernet’s ultimate
conclusion - Christianity was diametrically opposed to the values of Chinese
civilisation, and thus ultimately doomed to failure.
Two decades after Gernet first challenged the tradition of European
missiology, one lasting effect has become manifest. Though the majority of
monographs dealing with Christianity in China still focus on the missionary as the
chief agent (and still utilise mostly European source materials), the new outlook in
research into Chinese Christianity has produced an indelible imprint on the academic
discourse. In Nicolas Standaert’s analysis of Yang Tingyun, David Mungello’s
examination of elite Christianity in late imperial Hangzhou,67 or in Erik Zürcher’s
comparison of Han Buddhism with Ming Christianity, the influence of Gernet’s
seminal work is ever-present. Opposition to Gernet focuses on his “conflict theory” of the ultimate incompatibility of Chinese civilisation with the European Christian
world view. Gernet’s opponents, such as Paul Rule, argue that most opposition was
political in nature, rather than philosophical.68 The lives of eminent Confucian
scholars such as Xu Guangqi and Yang Tingyun may be taken as a case in point.69
66
Cf. J. Gernet, Chine et christianisme, p. 146, referring to the Poxieji, section III, chapter 1.
See D. Mungello, The Forgotten Christians of Hangzhou, Honolulu: Univ. of Hawai’i Press 1994.
68 Eloquently expressed in Paul Rule, K'ung-tzu or Confucius? The Jesuit Interpretation of
Confucianism, Sydney, London and Boston: Allen & Unwin 1986.
69 Christian literati from the late Ming period have been allocated a place of honour in the
historiography of Christianity in China by Christians and non-Christians alike. Non-Christian scholars
and state officials today tend to stress the scientific (and therefore “patriotic”) contribution of the
Christian literati, whereas Chinese Christians see respected personalities such as Xu Guangqi as
defenders in an otherwise hostile environment. See William Peterson, “Why did they become
Christians? Yang T’ing-yun, Li Chih-tsao and Hsü Kuang-ch’i”, in: Ronan and Oh (eds.), East Meets
West, pp. 129-152. Otherwise, see Zhang Tingyu  et al., Ming shi  ("A History of the
Ming"), Beijing: Zhonghua shuju 1974, vol. (ce ) 21, juan 251, pp. 6493-6493,
67
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Gernet’s analysis cleared the path for an interpretation of the Christian
phenomenon from a “Chinese” point of view. During the 1990s, a small group of
Western academics attempted to demonstrate the impact of Christian concepts on the
lives of ordinary Chinese converts. The same methodology which had been pioneered
by Annales scholarship for the study of European history was now applied to a
sinological topic. Akin to Carlo Ginzburg’s miller,70 the cosmology of the historical
object had now become the focus of attention. For the study of Chinese Christianity
this implied a shift of parameters, away from the European missionary as the centre of
agency towards the Chinese Christian - or even to the opponent or indifferent
neighbour of the same Christian. The belated arrival of the “history of the common
person” in the research of Chinese Christianity challenged the quasi monopoly status
of missionary history, which portrayed the development of Christianity in China as a
by-product of the missionary enterprise alone. Needless to say, this viewpoint tended
to over-emphasise the role of the male component of Christian congregations. To be
fair, this bias is not just due to the male prerogative of priesthood in Catholicism, but
also to the male preponderance in traditional Chinese society. Only recently have
Christian women become a focus of research into Chinese Christianity.71 This recent
“Xu Guangqi zhuan ” ("A biography of Xu Guangqi"). The most representative work on
Yang Tingyun is Nicolas Standaert, Yang Tingyun - Confucian and Christian in Late Ming China: His
Life and Thought, Leiden: E. J. Brill 1988. See also Willard J. Peterson, “Why did they become
Christians? Yang T’ing-yun, Li Chih-tsao and Hsü Kuang-ch’i”, in: Charles E. Ronan and Bonnie B. C.
Oh (eds.), East Meets West: The Jesuits in China, 1582-1773, Chicago: Loyola University Press 1988,
pp. 129-152.
70 Carlo Ginzburg, The Cheese and the Worms - The Cosmology of a Sixteenth Century Miller,
Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press 1980.
71 Such examples of “gender history” include Gail King, “Candida Xu and the Growth of Christianity in
China in the Seventeenth Century”, in: Monumenta Serica, XLVI (1998), pp. 49-66 and Robert
Entenmann, “Christian Virgins in Eighteenth Century Sichuan”, in: Daniel H. Bays (ed.), Christianity in
China - From the Eighteenth Century to the Present, Stanford University Press 1996, pp. 180-194.
The same theme is analysed from a Protestant angle in Jessie G. Lutz and Rolland Ray Lutz, Hakka
Chinese Confront Protestant Christianity, 1850-1900: with the Autobiographies of Eight Hakka
Christians, and Commentary, Armonk / New York: M. E. Sharpe 1998. See also Kwok Pui-lan
, Chinese Women and Christianity 1860-1927, Atlanta / Georgia: Scholars Press 1992 and,
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trend also reflects the current academic emphasis on aspects of “gender” in the
missionary experience.72 Other aspects of “mentality”-type historical approaches
(histories of fear and of the imagined, of social networks as well as of science73) may
lend themselves to partial discoveries and re-interpretations in the field, while the
post-modernist search for “the other” has yet to make an impact. A peculiar
expression of “anthropological interest” reveals itself in recent writings by Erik
Zürcher, based on the introduction to the role of religion in China by C. K. Yang.74
Erik Zürcher examined the currently available Christian writings of the late Ming
period. His results revealed that the interpretation of the first generation of Chinese
Christians bore but scant resemblance to the doctrines of established Catholic
orthodoxy.75 Zürcher’s central conclusion is that the spread of Christianity was
severely hampered by the inflexible attitudes of contemporary Catholicism. The siege
mentality and the incessant warfare between leaders of competing denominations
produced by Reformation and Counter-Reformation in Europe had reduced the
Vatican’s readiness to compromise with its opponents. Ever-ready to stage a
“reconquista” against the faithless European north, the Propaganda Fide reduced the
scope for a comprehensive policy of accommodation, as practised by certain parts of
in the context of missionary education, Gael Graham, Gender, Culture and Christianity, p. 29 ff.
(concerning missionary efforts to improve the welfare and status of China’s women).
72 Often focusing on the conflict between the Christian imperative of monogamy and traditional
patterns of polygamy and polygyny. See Fiona Bowie, “The Inculturation Debate in Africa”, pp. 83-90.
73 The most ample source of information is still Joseph Needham’s encyclopaedic and ongoing project
Science and Civilization in China. An example of the scientific involvement of the Jesuit missionaries
is illustrated in Peter M. Engelfriet, Euclid in China: The Genesis of the First Chinese Translation of
Euclid’s Elements, Books I-IV (Jihe yuanben, Beijing 1607) and its Reception up to 1723, New York:
E. J. Brill 1998.
74 Cf. C. K. Yang, Religion in Chinese Society: A Study of Contemporary Social Functions of Religion
and some of their Historical Factors, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California
Press 1970, in particular pp. 104-126 and 278-293. The most salient points of his argumentation are
discussed in Erik Zürcher, “Jesuit Accommodation and the Chinese Cultural Imperative”, in: David
Mungello (ed.), The Chinese Rites Controversy - Its History and Meaning, Nettetal: Steyler Verlag
1994, pp. 71-92.
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the Society of Jesus in their overseas mission. Hamstrung by the interference of the
central administration in Rome, the Jesuit China missionaries were caught in the
conundrum of wanting to be seen in a double role as aspiring scholar officials and
missionary priests. The missionaries thus had to justify their priestly profession to the
Confucian literati they sought to convert, and at the same time to explain their policy
of accommodation to an increasingly sceptical clerical audience at home. In the final
analysis, the constant need to compromise acted as a permanent brake on the
proliferation of Christianity in China. Unable to integrate into the ritual mainstream of
Chinese culture, Christianity was doomed to “marginality”.76 A problematic area, in
this context, is the differentiation between the “heterodox” subculture - tolerated by
the state’s guardians of orthodoxy, but discouraged as essentially “superstitious” - and
the world of - outright illegal - “heresy”.77
Robert Entenmann examined the development of Christianity in eighteenth
century Sichuan, mainly based on French missionary correspondence.78 Entenmann’s
thesis can be summarised in two cardinal points: Christians, at the end of the
eighteenth century (in southern China), originated from all sections of the social
75
Cf. Eric Zürcher, “The Lord of Heaven and the Demons: Strange Stories from a Late Ming Christian
Manuscript”, in: G. Naundorf et al. (eds), Religion und Philosophie in Ostasien - Festschrift für Hans
Steiniger zum 65. Geburtstag, Würzburg 1985, pp. 357 - 376.
76 Cf. Nicolas Standaert, “New Trends in the Historiography of Christianity in China” in: The Catholic
Historical Review, LXXXIII- 4 (October 1997) : “Christianity in China”, pp. 607-609.
77 The results of the interrogations used for this thesis suggest that most Christians became followers of
the cult in the full knowledge that Christianity was situated outside the parameters of orthodoxy. On the
other hand, the Christians usually vehemently denied any accusation of “heresy” and “subversion”,
which leads to the assumption that most Christians were not intent on joining a “heretical” cult. The
problem of defining “heresy” and “heterodoxy” is discussed on p. 185 ff. of this thesis.
78 See Robert Entenmann, “Chinese Catholic Clergy and Catechists in Eighteenth Century Szechuan”,
in: Actes du VIe Colloque International de Sinologie de Chantilly, Paris: Institut Ricci / Centre
d’Études Chinoises 1995, pp. 389-410, as well as his “The Establishment of Chinese Catholic
Communities in Early Ch’ing Szechuan”, in: Actes du VIIe Colloque International de Sinologie de
Chantilly, Paris: Institut Ricci / Centre d’Études Chinoises 1995, pp. 147-161 and “Catholics and
Society in Eighteenth-Century Sichuan”, in: Daniel Bays (ed.), Christianity on China, pp. 8-23.
Entenmann’s work constitutes a refreshing departure from earlier, hagiographic accounts of the
missionary enterprise in the province. A good example of traditional missiology focusing on Sichuan is
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spectrum and belonged to a variety of ethnic backgrounds. Christianity had secondly
developed into a popular religious cult, which attracted followers from a wide range of
religious orientations, usually offshoots of popular Buddhism.79 While the results of
the present thesis by and large correspond to the second point (integration into the
popular religious fabric of late imperial culture), Entenmann’s first observation runs
counter to my own findings. Most of the Christian communities encountered in
official and missionary documents are described as being “poor” or even “destitute”.
The only exceptions stem, interestingly, from Sichuan, target destination for migrant
workers from the north. The reason for this discrepancy is probably to be found in the
different socio-economic composition of northern China; whereas the Jiangnan and
most of the southern provinces had established vibrant merchant communities, the
North China Plains were still dominated by feudal patterns of large-scale farming.
Some areas in the north-east were so poor that one of the most popular “escape
routes” for boys was to seek employment as eunuchs in the Forbidden City.80
R.G. Tiedemann recently followed up indications linking certain sectarian
movements in the eighteenth century to Christian communities.81 Tiedemann’s main
theory, distilled from missionary correspondence held at Roman archives, is that such
links existed because of the high degree of fluidity between religious movements in
the eighteenth century. Mass conversions, according to Tiedemann, were thus a
Léonide Guiot’s La Mission du Su-tchuen au XVIIIme siècle: Vie et apostolat de Mgr Pottier, son
fondateur, Paris: Téqui 1892, published on the first centenary of Pottier’s death.
79See Robert Entenmann, “Catholics and Society in Eighteenth-Century Sichuan”, pp. 22 - 23.
80 See the introduction to the - popular - biography of the last senior palace eunuch of the Qing, ‘LittleDezhang’ (), in: Yang Zhengguang , Zhongguo zuihou de yige dataijian
 (“China’s last grand eunuch”), [Changsha]: Qunzhong
chubanshe 1994, pp. 1-5. On “exit routes” out of poverty, see G. W. Skinner,
“Mobility Strategies in Late Imperial China”, p. 354 ff. The phenomenon of court eunuchs is otherwise
discussed in Mary M. Anderson, Hidden Power: The Palace Eunuchs of Imperial China, Buffalo / New
York: Prometheus Books 1990.
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symptom of the general ease with which commoners were ready to adopt a (new)
religious identity. “Policing” neophytes was even under the most ideal circumstances
an almost impossible task for the few European missionaries. Following the
prohibition of 1724, any missionary invigilation of converts practically ceased, turning
China’s Christians into an ideal laboratory for religious innovation and for syncretic
experimentation with other sectarian movements.82 Dr Tiedemann’s study is thus a
valuable contribution to the development of popular Christianity in the mid-Qing
period, in particular for the Shandong region. It ends with a number of open questions,
most crucially about the fate of the “baptised ‘sectarians’” after 1724, and about the
treatment of such “old Christians” by the missionaries of the post-Opium War period.
One of the motivations behind the present thesis is to find answers to these questions,
while analysing the phenomenon as part of a far wider religious landscape unfurling
during the eighteenth century.
Chinese research into Christianity has been slow in divorcing itself from the
missiological tradition of the past century - in particular because the nationalistic view
of China’s modern history saw Western imperialism as a concomitant of foreign
influence. A Sino-centric interpretation of Chinese Christianity removes old
certainties, with consequences for China’s self-perception in the modern world.
Though Christianity may thus still be too controversial a topic to reinterpret, a seachange has occurred since the early 1990s in the interpretation of popular religious
movements in the country’s not too distant past.83 Historians such as Qin Baoqi
81
See R. G. Tiedemann, “Christianity and Chinese ‘Heterodox Sects’: Mass Conversion and
Syncretism in Shandong Province in the Early Eighteenth Century”: in Monumenta Serica XLIV
(1996), pp. 339-382.
82 Ibidem, pp. 374-378.
83 The immediate present is a different matter, since the PRC authorities are facing a tide of religious
activity in the countryside. News reports since 1995 mention popular healers with mass followings,
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of the People’s University in Beijing (Zhongguo renmin daxue 
), but also a growing band of young academics publishing in renowned
historical journals, are challenging the hitherto accepted mantra of secret cults being
part of a heroic struggle of China’s peasant masses against feudalism and (Manchurian
and Western) imperialism. For many of the older Chinese historians, however, the depoliticisation of academic research in mainland China implied that they were free to
return to the academic interests which had to be abandoned in the wake of the Cultural
Revolution. The period after 1976 has been dominated by research into the scientific
and political aspects of Sino-Western relations.84 Full access to archives with
Christian materials may yet provide a basis for a more radically revised view of
Chinese Christianity. A new point of departure may have been reached with the work
of the Hangzhou scholar Wang Xiaochao.85 Focusing on the lives and publications of
late Ming literati-converts, Wang attempts to illustrate the parallels between the
development of Christianity in imperial China and in the Roman empire. His
monograph follows the arguments of Christian “apologists” (i.e. intellectuals who
argued that Christianity was fully compatible with Romano-Hellenic civilisation:
Minucius Felix, Tertullian and Lactantius)86, and compares these with the writings of
eminent Ming converts (Yang Tingyun, Li Zhizao and, chiefly, Xu Guangqi). The first
two parts contain an analysis of the intellectual background, the arguments of antiheterodox Christian “house churches” and even a resurgence of the “White Lotus” in certain parts of the
South-West. Compare further examples listed in the “Epilogue” for a fuller picture.
84 See, for instance, the useful - and very traditional - compilation by Huang Shijian ,
Zhongxi guanxishi nianbiao  (“A Chronology of Sino-Western Contacts”),
Hangzhou: Zhejiang renmin chubanshe   1994. Zhong Shuhe  (ed.), Zou
xiang shijie congshu , Changsha: Yuelu chubanshe  1985,
contains a series of essays on China and the West by Rong Hong and other leading Qing officials at the
end of the nineteenth century.
85 Xiaochao Wang, Christianity and Imperial Culture: Chinese Christian Apologetics in the
Seventeenth Century and their Latin Patristic Equivalent, Leiden, Boston and Cologne: E. J. Brill
1998. The monograph appears to be a translation from the Chinese of the author’s doctoral thesis
completed at the University of Leeds in 1996.
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Christian traditionalists and the responses of Christian intellectuals from among the
elites of the Roman and Ming empire.87 The final part contains an - implicit - answer
to Gernet’s thesis of fundamental antagonism. By dividing the encounter with
Christianity in both civilisations into a “socio-political” and into a “religiophilosophical” sphere, the author arrives at a nuanced conclusion: Within the
parameters of the former sphere, Christianity in China could very well be accepted and
reconciled with existing patterns of authority - had the political development during
the Ming (and during the unmentioned mid-Qing) only taken a different course. A
crucial difference existed within the latter, religio-philosophical category: Whereas
Roman apologists attempted to reconcile Christian morality with the ethics of Hellenic
philosophy, they relentlessly attacked the very essence of pagan religion. Equally,
Ming apologists intended to replace Buddhism as the chief competitor to Christian
religiosity, but their message concerning ritual elements of Confucianism was more
ambivalent and their choice of aspects of (European) Christianity highly selective.88
Thus, the author concludes, Christianity merely became a “subculture” and the
inculturation process remained incomplete.89
Wang Xiaochao’s contribution added a valuable comparative interpretation to
the analysis of imperial Chinese Christianity, but it remains wedded to the analysis of
Ming dynasty elite writings. A very different type of research can be found in the
recent dissertation by Ma Zhao.90 Based on extensive research at the First Historical
86
See ibidem, p. 8.
Ibidem, “Part I: Latin Apologists and Graeco-Roman Culture” (pp. 7-77) and “Part II: Chinese
Christian Apologists and Chinese Culture” (pp. 79-203), respectively.
88 See “Part III: Conclusions and Comparisons” (pp. 207-236), in particular pp. 219-222.
89 Ibidem, pp. 227-229.
90 Ma Zhao , “Shilun Qianlong shiqi (1736-1796) chajin tianzhujiao shijian”
 (“A preliminary study of events
relating to the prohibition of Christianity during the Qianlong period, 1736-1796”), MA thesis:
87
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Archives, Ma Zhao’s exploration of Christianity during the Qianlong period is based
on the premise that the Christian communities were part of the wider pattern of
religious movements during the eighteenth century. Despite acknowledging the state
officials’ general lack of insight into the differences between different religious
movements, Ma Zhao tends to sympathise with the intentions of the Chinese state. In a
statement which would have provoked de Groot’s heartfelt ire, the author holds that
the Qing officials fought “heretical” movements in order to guarantee the stability of
society.91 On the other hand, the dissertation was written with the unmistakable
intention of providing the viewpoints of all parties involved: State officials, European
missionaries and indigenous Christians. Due to this differentiating approach and
because of the author’s unprecedented use of the former imperial archives, Ma Zhao’s
study should be regarded as a promising beginning in the reinterpretation of
Christianity’s place in China’s more recent past.
The present thesis seeks to continue the search for the nature of non-elite
Christianity, and aims at extending the results of earlier research into a larger, more
systematic picture of Chinese Christianity. This approach in itself is not intended as a
negative criticism of Gernet’s findings - on the contrary, Action et réaction still
provides the most challenging basis for research into Christianity in China. The results
of this thesis will show that the compatibility of Christianity with Chinese traditions
depended on the actual self-perception of each individual Christian community
concerned. In some cases, Christians opted to segregate themselves from their
neighbours by adopting certain stipulations of Christian doctrine which ran counter to
established communal traditions. In other cases, the socio-ritual harmony within a
Zhongguo renmin daxue qingshi yanjiusuo (Beijing:
Research Centre for Qing History, People’s University), June 1999.
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larger community was preserved without major disputes to report. The great majority
of verdicts made by high-ranking officials, however, focused on cases of intercommunal conflict, and were thus condemnatory. On the other hand, we should
remember that statements made by and for state officials were, by their very nature,
preoccupied with pleasing the ears of the superior authorities: For the reporting
officials, any expression of sympathy with the ideas of suspected “sectarian criminals”
could result in reprimanding and demotion; for the villagers under investigation,
persistence could result in the extension of their physical suffering at the hands of the
magistrate’s men.92 The mere fact that Christianity managed to survive and even
multiply during the period of prohibition seems to indicate that Gernet’s reservations
were mostly founded on theoretical objections by the literati elite rather than on the
social and ritual realities of Christian commoners. Whereas past research mostly
concentrated on the reasons for the failure to “convert the Chinese”, the present thesis
will try to establish the actual effect of the European mission on China’s convert
population. It will hence not attempt to evaluate the degree of “success” or “failure” of
the missionaries’ effort to establish a Chinese Christendom as a mirror image of
contemporary European models, but rather seek to analyse the perceptions of the
converts and their descendants. The focus is therefore not on its functioning as a
theologically intact system but on Christianity as a fascinating example of
“involuntary adaptation” of imported religious concepts to the local cultural and
intellectual traditions of late imperial China.93 Others’ missionary “failure” here
91
Ibidem, pp. 35 and 37.
The procedures regulating correspondence to and from the court are explained in Ch’ien Mu,
Traditional Government in Imperial China, pp. 127-128.
93 This interpretation seems to confirm Michael Pye’s observation of ‘dynamically open’ “syncretic”
movements - ever changing, temporary traditions, yet appearing fully coherent to the contemporary
participants. The alternative, “synthetic” development of Christianity into a new religion, which could
have led to the creation of a theologically and liturgically separate religion, would not have been
92
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becomes a fortunate historical condition. The most important results of the present
research into eighteenth century popular Christianity can be found in the following
paragraph.
4. The main arguments in seven theses
1) The spread of Christianity in China should be seen as part of the general
development of popular Chinese religion during the late imperial period, including the
secret cults which flourished during the same time.
2) The reaction of the imperial administration after 1724 can only be
understood within the context of the fissures appearing in the “Golden Era” of the
eighteenth century. A booming population created an increasingly volatile political
situation, which led to economic and demographic destabilisation and had grave
consequences for China’s social order. It was hence in the state’s interest to protect
social stability at any cost.
3) State action against Christianity followed the tradition of protecting the
subjects from heretical thought, and formed part of a wider campaign against
proscribed religious cults. The persecutions were in no way different from purges
against other popular movements - until the advent of Western powers in the
nineteenth century changed the pattern of confrontation.
4) With the exception of - perhaps - those intellectuals who were in close
contact with Western missionaries, the majority of Chinese Christians incorporated
their new creed into the commonly accepted religious and socio-cultural traditions of
possible as long as the contacts with and memories of foreign missionaries survived. The absence of a
feeling of irreversible isolation from its Euro-Christian roots thus also makes Chinese Christianity
strikingly different from the religion of Japan’s Hidden Christians. For a more detailed discussion of
Pye’s theories and their relevance in the Japanese context, see Stephen Turnbull, The Kakure Kirishitan
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the late imperial period. Problems mainly arose when converts refused to follow
communal ritual conventions in villages with a non-Christian majority, epitomised by
the contentious issue of the ancestral rites.
5) After foreign missionaries had been banned from proselytising in China,
successive generations of Christians accepted and preserved the key aspects of their
ancestors’ religious identity, and thus accelerated the process of Christianity’s
inculturation into the context of local Chinese society.
6) Having “inherited” their adherence to Christianity as a popular Chinese cult,
the ancestral affiliation to Christianity served as a unifying factor for clan and village
communities with a single ancestor. The same phenomenon could, under certain
conditions, segregate families and clan-villages with Christian ancestors from their
non-Christian
neighbours.
Inter-communal
relations
were,
however,
never
predetermined, depending to a large extent on the social and “political” situation in a
given locality.
7) The differences between Christians and non-Christians should be regarded
as a culturally endogenous affair - in analogy to sectarian coexistence and conflict in
other parts of the world. Accounts by visiting Westerners during the first decades of
the nineteenth century confirm this observation: Whereas the (new) missionaries
failed to recognise China’s indigenous Christians as fellow - and therefore “proper” Christians, the non-Christian population, as well as the Chinese state officials,
perceived them as belonging to the same cultural community - as part of the culture
and society of late imperial China.
of Japan - A Study of Their Development, Beliefs and Rituals to the Present Day, Richmond: Japan
Library / Curzon Press 1998, pp. 11-12 and 223-227.
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Chapter 2:
“Inculturation” - Defining a concept
Initially, the term “inculturation” was used to describe phenomena of cultural
adaptation affecting societies.1 The discourse continued into a more abstract mode,
centring on incompatibilities in instances of inter-cultural dialogue.2 The interest in
the introduction of religions into foreign cultures, their dissemination in host societies
and in the mutations new religions experience during this process is relatively recent.3
Most authors on the topic have developed their own terminology, which implies that
identical terms often convey different meanings - a coherent typology has yet to be
developed.4 However, most authors agree on the gradual, almost imperceptible nature
of inculturation, leading to the transformation of established values and behavioural
norms.5 Its direction, motive force and target group vary according to the precise
1
Introduced by Alfred Vierkant in Die Stetigkeit im Kulturwandel, Leipzig 1908, the terms
‘acculturation’ and ‘enculturation’ became widely (and interchangeably) used in the anthropological
and sociological discourse of the 1930s - usually in the context of the changes “native cultures”
underwent after being exposed to “Western civilisation”. See Nicholas Standaert, “Inculturation and
Chinese-Christian Contacts in late Ming and early Qing”, in: Ching Feng XXXIV-4 (Dec. 1991), p.
226, footnote 7.
2 See, for instance, the article by William T. Liu (Liu Chu), “Xishu shehui kexue bentuhuade
sizhong xingtai ” (English parallel title: “Four
Major Types of the Indigenization of Sociology”), in: Xianggang shehui kexue xuebao
H
 ong Kong Journal of Social Sciences IV (Autumn 1994), pp. 171-183,
as well as Xu Jilin , “Bentuhuade lijie wuqu ” (English title:
“Some Responses to the Radical Thinking of Indigenization in Social Research”), in: ibidem, pp. 184193.
3 The recent discourse has tended to emphasise the permanently changing cultural phenotype of
Christianity as a fundamental characteristic of the religion, and not as a mere historical by-product. The
most relevant theories are summarised in Karl Josef Rivinius, “Inkulturation”, in: Stimmen der Zeit,
CCXII-10 (October 1994), pp. 687-696.
4 A significant first attempt was accomplished by Steven Kaplan, who provided a theoretical structure
for the process of Christianity’s ‘Africanisation’. For theoretical considerations, see Steven Kaplan,
“The Africanization of Missionary Christianity: History and Typology”, in: Journal of Religion in
Africa XVI-3 (October 1986), pp. 178-180. For a brief discourse on the terminology - and, in particular,
its limitations - see also Thomas Bamat and Jean-Paul Wiest, “The Many Faces of Popular
Catholicism”, in: idem (eds), Popular Catholicism in a World Church: Seven Case Studies in
Inculturation, Maryknoll / New York: Orbis Books 1999, pp. 6-9.
5 This also applies to the inculturation of Asian religions into a Christian-occidental setting. For
Buddhism see, for instance, the Martin Baumann, Deutsche Buddhisten - Geschichte und
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nature of the local conditions. Inculturation is thus never complete, but directly interdependent on the changes wrought by time.6
The related terms acculturation and inculturation both describe the experience
of confrontation between any external influence (in our context of socio-religious
nature) and a resilient structure of traditions, with the external force striving for
predominance over native tradition. Successful acculturation or inculturation can
hence only take place if a sufficient degree of “de-culturation”7 on either side of the
spectrum has taken place: If the ingressing culture proves to be “weaker”, then the
social community representing this culture will lose a decisive proportion of its
original cultural identity and is bound to dissolve in the host society;8 if the original
culture is in a threatened position, a confrontation with external cultural elements can
inflict a certain degree of cultural loss.9 In the more recent missionary discourse, the
term acculturation is increasingly being replaced by inculturation, perhaps reflecting a
greater degree of inevitability in the process of cultural assimilation, and based on the
Gemeinschaften, Marburg: Diagonal Verlag 1993, as well as his article “Culture Contact and Valuation:
Early German Buddhists and the Creation of a ‘Buddhism in Protestant Shape’”, in: Numen XLIV
(1997), pp. 270-295. Also Philip A. Mellor, “Protestant Buddhism? The Cultural Translation of
Buddhism in England”, in: Religion XXI-2 (1991), pp. 73-92 and Thomas A. Tweed, The American
Encounter with Buddhism 1844-1912 - Victorian Culture and the Limits of Dissent, Bloomington:
Indiana UP 1992. For a recent study of Islam in northern Europe, see Thomas Gerholm and Yngve
Georg Lithman (eds), The New Islamic Presence in Western Europe, London: Mansell 1990.
6 This observation reflects personal observations, although a similar view is taken in K. J. Rivinius,
“Inkulturation”, p. 694, footnote 5.
7 For a brief discourse on the terminology - and, in particular, its limitations - see Thomas Bamat and
Jean-Paul Wiest, “The Many Faces of Popular Catholicism”, pp. 6-9.
8 As the experience of immigrant communities in contemporary western Europe has demonstrated, the
process of dissolution into the host culture is by no means immediate, and can - albeit temporarily - lead
to a hardening of attitudes within the migrant community. See Ragnar Naess, “Being an Alevi Muslim
in South-Western Anatolia and in Norway: The Impact of Migration on a Heterodox Turkish
Community”, in Th. Gerholm / Y. G. Lithman (eds), The New Islamic Presence in Western Europe, pp.
174-195.
9 Prime example for such cultural subjugation is the conquest of southern America by the Hispanic
Kingdoms, enlightened missionaries such as Bartolomeo de las Casas being a notable exception. For a
brief introduction to the latter, see Johannes Beckmann, “Die Lage der katholischen Missionen in China
um 1815”, in: Neue Zeitschrift für Missionswissenschaft II (1946), pp. 207-209. For other examples see
John W. Berry, “Acculturation as Varieties of Adaptation”, in Amado M. Padilla (ed.), Acculturation:
Theory, Models, and Some New Findings, Boulder / Colorado: Westview Press 1980, pp. 2-25.
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premise that religious and cultural traditions carry equal value throughout the world.10
Before we return to the topic of inculturation (and acculturation), we shall first
attempt to contrast “inculturation” with to other crucial terms used in this thesis:
“accommodation” and “adaptation”, as methodologies employed by the Jesuit
missionaries.
1. “Ad gentes” - Adaptation and accommodation as missionary methods
From its very outset, Christianity was intended as a universal religion,
transcending - unlike Judaism - the boundaries of kinship and ethnic identity.11 The
missionary imperative hence implied the necessity of adapting the message of Jesus,
the Aramaic-speaking Nazarene, to the linguistic and cultural context of the
community targeted for conversion. The preferred method of Christianity’s earliest
messengers was highly individualistic: Peter, Christendom’s “bedrock” and a simple
fisherman, used rustic allusions designed for an illiterate public. The missives of the
more sophisticated and cosmopolitan Paul reflect early disputes in the Christian
communities around the Mediterranean, questioning the degree to which “adaptation”
10
For a brief introduction to the currently used terminology, see R. Costa, One Faith, Many Cultures:
Inculturation, Indigenization and Contextualization, Maryknoll / New York: Orbis Books 1988. Hans
Küng’s recent defence of “Christocentric” Christianity - as opposed to religious movements influenced
by Christianity - is based on the centrality of Christ in the teachings of new religious movements. See
Hans Küng, Christianity - its Essence and History, London: SCM Press 1995, quoted in Stephen
Turnbull, The Kakure Kirishitan of Japan, pp. 220-223 and 226-227. On a more critical note, should
the same criterion not also be applied to seventeenth-century European Catholicism, which had reduced
the centrality of the Crucified in favour of the veneration of saints and of Mary?
11 The following summary is based on the interpretations of the following authors: Julian Saldanha,
Inculturation, Mumbai: St Paul Publications 1987, chapter II: “Mission History” (pp. 25-38), Andrew
Walls, The Missionary Movement in Christian History, chapter I: “The Gospel as Prisoner and
Liberator of Culture” (in particular pp. 3-9 and 16-25), John Y. Fenton, Transplanting Religious
Traditions - Asian Indians in America, New York: Praeger 1990. Also Michael Pye, “The
Transplantation of Religions”, in: Numen XVI-4 (1969), pp. 234-239, Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic
Gospels, Harmondsworth: Penguin 1990, pp. 26-31 and 73 and Lamin Sanneh, Translating the
Message - The Missionary Impact on Culture, Maryknoll / New York: Orbis Books 1989, pp. 71-73.
Similar questions, in a Chinese context, are raised in Lee Shiu-keung, The Cross and the Lotus, Hong
Kong: Christian Study Centre on Chinese Religion and Culture 1971.
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was at all desirable.12 One and a half millennia later, the same questions were asked
relating to the correct missionary method in the new European colonies in Latin
America, Africa and Asia. At the forefront was the Society of Jesus, confronted with
the intellectual challenge of finding the most effective way of reaching, converting
and retaining people brought up in a non-European environment.13 Despite the politics
of the counter-reformation, the Jesuits’ missiological method must be seen as a
response to the intellectual pluralism of the renaissance, resulting in a considerable
output of philosophical and scientific writings. Jesuits, such as Alexander Valignano
in the Indo-Asian mission, attempted to redress the lack of Christian writings in local
languages by printing catechisms and hagiographies. This approach, soon referred to
as accommodation, was taken to unprecedented lengths by Roberto Nobili.14 His
approach included copying the dress code, hair style and fasting habits of the religious
Brahmin. The most controversial element of his method was to adopt elements of
Hindu ritual for the Christian liturgy, while expunging Western traditions deemed
objectionable by the local population. The same missionary method was applied in
Japan (belatedly) and in China (immediately), where Jesuits such as Matteo Ricci
12
See, for instance, Paul’s epistles to the Colossians (chapter I), to the Galatians and Philippians (II).
The letter to the Hebrews, though of unclear authorship, reflects similar traits. For a concise summary complete with biblical references - see Julian Saldanha, Inculturation, pp. 16-20.
13 The Society of Jesus (Societas Iesu) was founded on 15 August 1534 in Paris by Ignatius of Loyola
(Inigo Lopez de Loyola) as an academic circle devoted to poverty and (re-)evangelisation. The formal
affirmation of the Society by the Vatican in 1540 underlined its importance as a militant vanguard in
regions threatened by Protestant “heresy” (mostly in central and northern Europe) and, particularly, in
non-Christian territories recently acquired by Spain and Portugal as colonies. For more details, see L.
Sanneh, Translating the Message, pp. 90-91.
14 The term itself originated from a letter sent by Valignano to the uncompromising “Westerniser”
Francisco Cabral in the middle of the 1570s. See, for Cabral and early Jesuit mission strategies in
general, Josef Franz Schütte and John J. Coyne (transl.), Valignano’s Mission Principles for Japan,
Volume I: From his Appointment as Visitor until his first Departure from Japan, Part I: The Problem
(1573-1580), St Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources 1980, pp. 187-247. Severely critical of the
latter’s heavy-handed approach in the Japanese mission, Valignano stressed that “es del todo necesario
que nos acomodemos”. Also quoted in Lamin Sanneh, Translating the Message, p. 95. We should,
however, not forget that mission strategies could differ depending on local circumstances; Valignano’s
attitude may indeed have been rather different in India. On his Jesuit confrère Roberto Nobili (Nobili
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emulated the values of the scholar-officials in order to gain converts among the elite.15
Conversions were by no means meant to be achieved on a mass basis, but were
intended as the natural outcome of “friendly conversations” about nature, politics and
scholarship.16 Practices deemed objectionable, such as the application of priestly
saliva on the foreheads of catechumens, were to be omitted.17 The adoption of
Confucian rites, condoning - crucially - the veneration of ancestors, was lauded by
Europe’s intellectual elite, but attracted widespread criticism from other Catholic
orders, and eventually contributed to the Society’s dissolution in 1773.18 Outside the
exclusive circles of the scholar-official class, European missionaries sought to apply
methods modelled upon the missionary techniques of the Apostles.19 By emphasising
the close and frequent personal contact with the curious gentile as well as with the
recent convert, the missionaries would ensure that the “mysteries of the Holy Faith”
signed his name as Roberto de Nobili in Latin texts only) see Vincent Cronin, A Pearl to India - The
Life of Robert de Nobili, London: Rupert Hart-Davis 1959.
15 The study by J. F. Moran, The Japanese and the Jesuits: Alessandro Valignano in Sixteenth-Century
Japan, London and New York: Routledge 1993 on the Jesuit Visitator Alessandro Valignano (15391606) reveals the components of accommodation perceived as crucial: familiarity with etiquette and
religious norms (pp. 54 ff. and 134), knowledge of local customs (pp. 134-136 and 161-172) and,
importantly, fluency in the converts’ language and literature (pp. 178-179). Charles Boxer, rather
admiringly, analysed the Jesuit accommodation to native festivals (e.g. the Bon festival of the dead) and
social customs (e.g. the tea ceremony and norms governing personal hygiene). See C. R. Boxer, The
Christian Century in Japan, pp. 50-54 and 212-217, respectively. Furthermore, the dojuku were
modelled by Valignano in their appearance and function on Buddhist novices (ibidem, pp. 223-226).
George Elison, however, considers the nature of accommodation an act of dissimulation (of
Christianity’s genuine character), which was ultimately bound to lead to disappointment and
resentment, both of the European missionaries and of the Japanese converts. See G. Elison, Deus
Destroyed, pp. 248-254. A comprehensive account of such external signs of accommodation can be
found in J. F. Schütte / J. Coyne (trans.), Volume I, Part II: The Solution (1580-1582), pp. 41-48.
16 See F. Margiotti, Il cattolecismo nello Shansi, pp. 264-266
17 Ibidem, p. 347. The same applied to the placing of the host into the mouths of female believers
participating in the Eucharist, or to the practice of covering one’s head. Ibidem, pp. 355-359.
18 The so-called Rites Controversy divided European Catholicism into two opposing factions which
passionately argued for their respective cause. The most recent comprehensive study is David E.
Mungello (ed.), The Chinese Rites Controversy - its History and Meaning, Nettetal: Steyler Verlag
1994. See also the monograph by George Minamiki, The Chinese Rites Controversy - from its
Beginnings to Modern Times, Chicago: Loyola University Press 1985. For an anthropological analysis
of ancestral worship see Emily M. Ahern, The Cult of the Dead in a Chinese Village, Stanford:
University of California Press 1973.
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were thoroughly explained, both in spoken language, as well as by means of printed
tracts. The most vital ingredient in this plan was unfailing patience, in order to
reiterate, query and weed out any misconceptions (riti falsi). Then, the catechuminate
would be dispensed, consisting of the allocation of a Christian name (in the form of
standardised Chinese character equivalents), of salt and oil, and - occasionally, if
deemed appropriate - of exorcism. Over a period of three to four months, the
mysteries of the new faith would be explained, in order to reinforce the Christian
message in the hearts of the convert. Only once the missionaries were satisfied that
every important aspect of the new faith had been completely understood, would
baptism take place. In villages, the missionary would visit the houses of the Christians
personally, at least three to four times per year, in order to instruct the most capable of
the catechumens to act as the “heads” of the community of converts (Capo de’
Christiani, or huizhang ). These would act instead of ordained priests, by
congregating the converts on each church holiday for prayer, to explain the Christian
doctrine at least on a weekly basis, as well to supervise and to exhort the faithful.20
Though not entitled to administer the sacraments, the huizhang were expected to
perform confessions and first communions.21 Decisions concerning weddings,
divorces and funerals were customarily left to the local community, while the
missionaries would reserve the right to intervene during their seasonal visits.22
19
See the pamphlet on conversion methods (Relazione del Metodo che si tiene da Missionarii da Cina
nel procurare le converzioni dell’Infideli i nel contrassi li Matrimonii) by Giuseppe Cerù, kept at the
archives of the Propaganda Fide as document number SOCP, Indie Orientali, 1723-1725, ff. 21-23.
20 Due to reservations concerning the theological reliability of Chinese Christians, huizhang in
early eighteenth century Sichuan were only supposed to instruct (Christian) children, leaving the more
important missionary work to European missionaries. In practice, however, such attempts to regulate
the Christian mission were doomed to failure, since European missionaries became an increasingly rare
species during the eighteenth century. See Léonide Guiot, La Mission du Su-tchuen au XVIIIme siècle,
pp. 269-270 and also F. Margiotti, Il cattolicismo nello Shansi, pp. 274 ff.
21 G. Cerù, Relazione del Metodo, APF, SOCP, Indie Orientali, 1723-1725, folium 22V-23 R.
22 ... which frequently presented them with almost insoluble problems. See pp. 125 ff. and 147 ff. of
this thesis.
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Eminent missionaries, such as Giuseppe Cerù, attacked the emphasis on
quantity, identifying the policy of mass conversion as the direct cause of the high
degree of apostasy in times of persecution. The imperative was thus clearly on the
dialogue between catechist and missionary as individual beings.23 In all practice this
was nearly always impossible to achieve, not least because of linguistic difficulties,
which led to the misinterpretations which this missionary method was meant to
prevent. While the differences between the stipulated and the perceived could be but
minute, the cumulative effect of such interpretations was bound to have serious effects
on the religious edifice in the convert’s mind. In other words, even the most attentive
missionary could not prevent the gradual re-interpretation - or perceived
“misinterpretation” - of Christian dogma, caused by and formed upon the cultural
matrix of the convert.
2. Acculturation and inculturation
Following the condemnation of Jesuit adaptation and accommodation, the
discourse on missionary methods was put on hold until well into the nineteenth
century, when a new generation of missionaries was able to experiment with
missionary techniques.24 But the crucial impetus only occurred in the second half of
23
See G. Cerù, Relazione del Metodo, APF SOCP, Indie Orientali, 1723-1725, ff. 21-23. The
missionaries in eighteenth century Sichuan distinguished between two types of catechists: [stationary]
instructors in matters of faith, as well as ambulant, solitary missionaries. The degree of divergence from
the European interpretation of Christianity increased drastically in the latter case. See Léonide Guiot,
La Mission du Su-tchuen au XVIIIme siècle, p. 311.
24 This period of (mainly) Protestant missionary activity has been covered in great detail since the
middle of the nineteenth century. A comprehensive bibliography can be found in J. G. Lutz, “Chinese
Christians and China Missions”. For primary sources (available in North America) the most extensive
source to date is Archie R. Crouch et al., Christianity in China: A Scholar’s Guide to Resources in
Libraries and Archives of the United States, Armonk and London: M. E. Sharpe 1989.
For insight into one of the most remarkable characters of the “new China mission”, see Herman
Schlyter, Karl Gützlaff als Missionar in China, Lund: C. W. K. Gleerup 1946, his more recent Der
Chinamissionar Karl Gützlaff und seine Heimatbasis, Lund: C. W. K. Gleerup 1976, as well as Jessie
Lutz, “Karl F. A. Gützlaff: Missionary Entrepreneur”, in: Suzanne Wilson Barnett and John King
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the twentieth century, after incessant warfare, revolutions and de-colonisation had
rocked the self-confidence of Christian Europe. For the Catholic church, the Second
Vatican Council also entailed a reappraisal of Jesuit accommodation - and went
beyond it by accepting the missionary target culture as an equal peer to the occidental
tradition. The new missionary policy, referred to as “acculturation” or “inculturation”,
was first applied to the former colonies of Africa.25 Both terms are often used
synonymously with “indigenisation”, but is frequently limited to material expressions
of socio-cultural contact.26 Within the Christian context, the Jesuit missiologist Pierre
Charles first employed the term “inculturation”, with the Jesuit Joseph Masson using
it in a public address immediately preceding the Second Vatican Council.27 The
change in discourse reflects the gradual relocation of Christendom’s centre of gravity
away from Europe and the Americas towards the former “Christian colonies”, mainly
in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. The intensifying competition with religious
contenders, mainly Islam, has also demanded more flexible methods of Christian
proselytisation. Interestingly, in China the need for a reorientation of the Christian
missionary approach was already the object of theological discourse at the beginning
Fairbank, Christianity in China: Early Protestant Missionary Writings, Cambridge / Massachusetts and
London: Committee on American-East Asian Relations of the Department of History and Council of
East Asian Studies / Harvard University 1985, pp. 61-88.
25 The topic of inculturation in the African churches has been taken up by a number of recent authors,
for instance by E. E. Uzukwu, The Church and Inculturation: The acculturation of Roman Catholicism
in Eastern Nigeria, Uruowulu / Obosi: Pacific College Press 1985 and Eugene Hillman, Toward an
African Christianity: Inculturation Applied, New York: Paulist Press 1993. Recent publications include
Theo Sundermeier, The Individual and Community in African Traditional Religions, Hamburg: LIT
Verlag 1998, as well as Thomas Spear and Isaria Kimambo, East African Expressions of Christianity,
Athens / Ohio: Ohio University Press 1999. Overall, however, African civilisations elicited only a
fraction of the intellectual, medical and educational enthusiasm which Western missionaries displayed
for Asian civilisations. See Andrew F. Walls, “African Christianity in the History of Religions”, in
Christopher Fyfe and Andrew Walls (eds), Christianity in Africa in the 1990s, Edinburgh: Centre of
Asian Studies 1996, pp. 1-2.
26 Such as the imitation of clothing habits, acquisition of status symbols, or social customs from
neighbouring or penetrating cultures. For more information, see Peter Schineller, “Inculturation: A
Difficult and Delicate Task”, in: International Bulletin of Missionary Research, XX-3 (1996), pp. 109112.
27 Cf. K. J. Rivinius, “Inkulturation”, p. 688.
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of the twentieth century. During the 1920s, the Chinese churches were competing not
so much with rival religions but with a tide of secular political ideologies
(nationalism, communism). In order to be “part of the flow”, China’s Christians were
under pressure to demonstrate their anti-imperialist credentials, as well as to prove
that their belief owed more to “Chinese” rather than to “alien” concepts.28 The
churches, in particular those belonging to Protestant denominations but - at grassroots
level - also the Catholic church, responded by emphasising their “Chineseness”. The
decades in between the May Fourth Movement and the Japanese occupation hence
coincided with a policy of ‘indigenisation’: The use of Chinese priests, of Chinese
social customs and of the Chinese language all served to attract converts and retain
believers in a rapidly changing political environment.29
Whereas the early twentieth century witnessed the emergence of increasingly
self-confident local churches, Western missionaries were ambivalent in their response.
Missionary societies in China - between the Boxer Rebellion (1900) and the
conclusion of the Northern Expedition (1927) - transferred the responsibility for the
administration of their churches to Chinese nationals. The Vatican established the
basis for a thoroughly Chinese hierarchy by appointing six Chinese bishops and by
transferring as many dioceses as feasible to indigenous leadership.30 Most of these
28
Jessie Gregory Lutz, China and the Christian Colleges 1850-1950, Ithaca and London: Cornell
University Press 1971 provides a general background. An interesting contemporary source is Zhang
Qinshi
,
“Guonei
jin
shi
nian
lai
zhi
zongjiao
sichao
” (“Movements in religious thought in China within the last
ten
years”),
in:
Yanjing
huawen
xuexiao
yan-ke
cankao
cailiao
 (“Reference materials for research and specialised study
at the Yanjing Chinese College”), Beijing 1927. It is worth noting that “Chineseness” is used
synonymously with “Buddhism” in the pamphlet. See ibidem, pamphlet 14 (part III / ): “Fo-hua
jidujiao ” (“Buddhifying Christianity”).
29 The defensive reactions to the anti-missionary outbursts of the May Fourth Period is summarised in
Cui Dan, The Cultural Contribution of British Protestant Missionaries, pp. 132-139 (on medical
services) and 300-302 (on social reform).
30 By 1951, when Communist government measures forced the implementation of self-administration,
this process had yielded indigenous administration in 27 out of a total of 44 dioceses. Though far from
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“indigenous” churches were located in urban areas and followed the doctrines,
liturgies and - often - social conventions of their former missionary teachers.31 But
also in the rural “outstations”, the overall participation of Chinese Christians in the
administration of the churches increased markedly.32 During the republican period,
movements such as the True Jesus Church, the Little Flock, the Jesus Family and
Wang Mingdao’s Christian cult captured a growing proportion of China’s religious
population.33 In a way, the formation of these new churches could be regarded as the
ultimate success of the missionary effort. Missionary fears of uncontrollable
syncretism were, however, reignited when such indigenous expressions of Christianity
began to attract members of established missionary churches.34 This was particularly
the case for the True Jesus Church (Zhen Yesujiao ), founded by
Barnabas Dong in Beijing in 1917,35 as well as of the Little Flock (Xiao qun
complete, this number encompassed the majority of China’s Catholic population. See C. Cary-Elwes,
China and the Cross, pp. 240-242.
31 Whereas by the 1920s Roman Catholic missions were distributed relatively evenly throughout the
countryside and tended to be content to limit their activities to internal social issues, the Protestant
churches were striving to become actively involved in the socio-political issues of the Republic.
Concentrated in the metropoles of the eastern provinces, the Protestant missions thus competed directly
with the increasingly radicalised intellectuals of urban China. See Yip Ka-che, The Anti-Christian
Movement in China, pp. 16, 26 and 113.
32 See John K. Fairbank, “The Place of Protestant Writings in China’s Cultural History”, in: Barnett
and Fairbank, Christianity in China, pp. 7-13. The growing involvement of local Christians can also be
attributed to the increasingly successful campaign against Opium consumption. See Kathleen L.
Lodwick, Crusaders against Opium: Protestant Missionaries in China, 1874-1917, Lexington /
Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky 1995, pp. 53 and 66-67.
33 For a summary of these movements (and a detailed analysis of the Little Flock in particular), see
Norman Howard Cliff, “The Life and Theology of Watchman Nee, including a Study of the Little Flock
movement which he founded”, MPhil dissertation, Open University 1983 (UMI print), pp. 62-77.
34 Despite the contemporary policies of indigenisation, the established churches feared the influence of
traditional Chinese religion(s) within the new Christian movements. Jing Dianying, founder of the Jesus
Family, for instance, had been an ardent Buddhist. See ibidem, pp. 66-71.
35The movement owed its origins to the Pentecostal revival among the Chinese Christians of Los
Angeles around 1906. For a general discussion, see Bob Whyte, Unfinished Encounter - China and
Christianity, London: Collins 1988. For more information on the True Jesus Church, see Allen J.
Swanson and Grace Lo, The Church in Taiwan: Profile 1980 - A Review of the Past, A Projection for
the Future, Pasadena: William Carey Library 1981, pp. 76-79.
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) founded in Fuzhou around 1928 by Li Duosheng (Ni To Sheng, alias
“Watchman Nee”).36
Whereas contemporary Western Christianity - including Roman Catholicism has adopted a generally favourable attitude towards the phenomenon of inculturation,
many leading clerics seem to regard it as a “necessity” rather than a desirable state of
affairs. The Vatican’s guardian of orthodoxy, the International Theological
Commission, stated as recently as 1987 that the interpenetration of Christianity and
pre-existing cultural environments was to be welcomed, provided that the latter were
“compatible with the Gospel”.37 Previous papal pronouncements, such as the
encyclica Slavorum Apostoli,38 went even further, by suggesting that inculturation was
a process of mutual transformation, thus forcing aspects of Christianity to undergo a
certain degree of change. While the Vatican has encouraged African and Asian clerics
to assume important functions in the central church hierarchy, undisclosed suspicion
persists in both hemispheres of the Catholic world: European clerics are loth to see the
rites introduced by Western missionaries “corrupted” by localised pagan traditions,
and many members of congregations in the former colonies mistrust the sudden
tolerance of their former masters.39 Earlier experiments with independent expressions
of Christianity had ended in acrimony, such as in the Kingdom of Kongo, under the
36
For a detailed analysis of the Assembly Hall Church (Little Flock) see Norman Howard Cliff, “The
Life and Theology of Watchman Nee”, in particular pp. 31-44. The hostile reaction of the Communist
administration in China is reported in Dorothy A. Raber, Protestantism in Changing Taiwan: A Call to
Creative Response, Pasadena: William Carey Library 1978, p. 189 ff.
37 After Fiona Bowie, “The Inculturation Debate in Africa”, pp. 70-71.
38 “Apostles of the Slavs”, in honour of the Christianisation of early mediaeval Slavonic Europe. Cf. F.
Bowie, “The Inculturation Debate in Africa”, p. 71 ff.
39 Such “African” traditions include the identification (cultic and linguistic) of the Christian god with
pagan deities, this-worldly orientation of prayer, ancestor veneration, charismatic spirituality, witchcraft
and miraculous healing. See Andrew Walls, The Missionary Movement in Christian History, pp. 4-6, 810 and 13-14. See also Theo Sundermeier, The Individual and Community in African Traditional
Religions, pp. 120-136 (ancestor cult) and 198-205 (divination and medicine), as well as G. C.
Oosthuizen, The Healer-Prophet in Afro-Christian Churches, Leiden, Boston and Cologne: E. J. Brill
1992.
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rule of a Christian dynasty which had received its theological training in Portugal
during the early sixteenth century. The Counter-Reformation bestowed the Catholic
world with a siege mentality, while at the Council of Trent the Latin rite and the
contemporary European version of Christianity were enshrined as the ultimate matrix
for all proselytisation. The influence of extra-European culture on the missionary
movement were from now on regarded as “extra-Christian”. The experience of the
Kingdom of Kongo was seen as evidence by proponents of Eurocentrism of the
dangers of “inculturation” - indiscriminate, unsupervised intermingling of cultural and
religious traditions.40
3. “Inculturation” - a universal phenomenon
This thesis assumes that inculturation takes place even if the visiting culture
proves antagonistic to change. Patterns illustrating the inculturation of Christianity in
China become apparent when examining the stages of its entire history. Factors, such
as religious and philosophical traditions, social customs and the use of language
dictated the degree of alteration of the original Christian message during its
transmission. The first Jews who adopted Jesus as their spiritual master did so within
their own “Jewish” understanding of the universe, whereas Greeks and the Hellenised
peoples along the shores of the Mediterranean embraced Christianity as an extension
of their own cultural and philosophical identity.41 The Romans had been attracted to
oriental cults ever since their legions established bases in Mesopotamia and in Egypt.
The thought of having to surrender their identity as members of a superior civilisation
40
Aspects of inculturation extended from social organisation to definitions, respect and fear of the
metaphysical. Cf. J. Thornton, “The Development of an African Catholic Church in the Kingdom of
Kongo, 1491-1750”, in: Journal of African History, XXV-2 (1984), pp. 147-167.
41 This chapter of Christianity’s inculturation receives special attention in X. Wang, Christianity and
Imperial Culture, p. 230 ff.
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to the mores of an alien cult would have caused consternation. Mystical cults were
expected to contribute a spiritual quality to the lives of Roman citizens, without
forcing them to change their customs. Christianity was in this respect merely more
exclusive than other cults, in its refusal to accept any other gods or divine leaders.42
Wherever the legionaries took the new religion, the local populations would regard
Christianity as a “Roman” cult and interpret it within their own mental universe. of the
local populations.43 Following Christianity’s expansion beyond the borders of the
Roman empire, most Slavic churches established their own, national rites, following
the example of the Byzantine papacy. Within the Germanic world, however, a more
ambivalent system of worship emerged, often leaving native patterns of popular
religiosity intact while superimposing Latinised rites. It is therefore hardly surprising
that the vernacularising objectives of the Reformation first took root in Northern
Europe.44 A certain bipolarity of elite and popular religion could, however, also be
observed in the “ancient” Christian heartland of the Mediterranean, which led to
several evangelical campaigns during the Middle Ages and the CounterReformation.45
Outside Europe, the ancient churches of northern Africa, the Middle East and
India developed separate, localised Christian identities from the very beginning. The
42
See, for instance, Georg Schöllgen, “Die Teilnahme der Christen am städtischen Leben in
vorkonstantinischer Zeit”, in: Jochen Martin and Barbara Quint (eds), Christentum und antike
Gesellschaft, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 1990, pp. 319-357.
43 For insight into the interpretations taking place within their respective intellectual elites, see Winfried
Daut, “Die ‘Halben Christen’ unter den Konvertiten und Gebildeten des 4. und 5. Jahrhunderts”, in:
Zeitschrift für Missionswissenschaft, LV (1971), pp. 171-188.
44 See, for a general introduction, Benedicta Ward and G. R. Evans, “The Medieval West”, in: Adrian
Hastings (ed.), A World History of Christianity, London: Cassell 1999, pp. 111-118.
45 Quite rightly, Robert Gimello cautions readers - albeit in very different cultural parameters - not to
impose artificial parameters when studying traditional societies. See Robert M. Gimello, “Chang ShangYing on Wu-T’ai Shan”, in: Susan Naquin and Chü-fang Yü (eds), Pilgrims and Sacred Sites, p. 90.
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Ethiopian church preserved rites imbued with shamanistic symbolism.46 The Coptic
communities along the Nile combined ancient Egyptian, Jewish and Greek elements.47
In historic Syria, a variety of churches preserved their own separate traditions,48
whereas Iraq’s Mandaeans continued to worship the life-endowing forces of the Tigris
and the Euphrates within a changed theological context.49 Meanwhile, on the other
side of the Indian Ocean, the Malabar Christians of Kerala, presumed followers of St
Thomas, established patterns of Christian ritual that transcended the cultic differences
between Hindu religion and Christianity.50 Elsewhere in India, Catholicism was being
spread by European “gurus”, experimenting with diverse methods of proselytisation.51
The constant and cumulative inculturation of Christianity gathered pace when
its missionaries reached civilisations which had only recently been brought into
contact with Europe: The Americas, sub-Saharan Africa, India and eastern Asia. Pre46
Personified in the role of the dabteras, unordained chanters, exorcists and healers. See Aymro
Wondmagegnehu and Joachim Motovu, The Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Addis Ababa: Ethiopian
Orthodox Mission 1970, p. 140 and Aziz Suryad Atiya, A History of Eastern Christianity, Millwood /
New York: Kraus Reprints 1980, pp. 147-151, for a brief historical survey. The orthodox church is also
referred to as the (Ethiopian) Coptic church (see also the following note).
47 The word “Copt” is at the root of the name of ancient Egypt. Coptic Egyptians therefore have
regarded themselves as the inheritors of both a pre-Arab and pre-Islamic Egyptian civilisation. See
Wilfred C. Griggs, Early Egyptian Christianity - From its Origins to 451 C. E., Leiden: E. J. Brill
1990. A detailed anthology of church legends can be found in Walter Curt Till, Koptische Heiligenund Märtyrerlegenden: Texte, Übersetzungen und Indices, Rome: Pont. Inst. Orientalium Studiorum
1935/36.
48 A representative of the Syrian churches are the Maronite Christians, who form a large proportion of
Lebanon’s population. See Seely J. Beggiani, Early Syriac Theology: With Special Reference to the
Maronite Tradition, Lanham / Maryland: University Press of America 1983. The new Blackwell
Dictionary of Eastern Christianity, Ken Perry, John Hinnells et al. (eds), Oxford: Blackwell 1999
provides valuable information in encyclopaedic form.
49 For a systematic introduction, see E. S. Stevens, The Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran: Their Cults,
Customs, Magic, Legends and Folklore, Oxford: Clarendon Press 1937.
50 The library of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, has a Mass in Latin
for the Malabar Rites of the year 1609 - obviously the outcome of a ‘Christian-Christian encounter’. For
an outline history of the “Thomas Christians” of Kerala, see Eugène Tisserant, Eastern Christianity in
India: A History of the Syro-Malabar Church from the Earliest Time to the Present Day, Bombay /
Calcutta / Madras: Orient Longmans 1957. See also Sita Ram Goel, History of Hindu-Christian
Encounter, New Delhi: Voice of India 1989 for a more systematic analysis. An example of
contemporary inculturation is presented in the article by Francis Jayapathy, “Mukkuvar Catholicism”,
in: Th. Bamat and J.-P. Wiest (eds), Popular Catholicism in a World Church, pp. 183-214 (in particular
pp. 198-207, on the polarity of public and private expressions of Christian thought).
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Christian beliefs in the power of the ancestors, of shamans, witches and healers, as
well as of spirits controlling the cycles of life and agriculture, would gradually merge
with the doctrines of Christianity, and soon follow the example of the Christian
symbiosis with Roman and Greek concepts at the very beginning of Christendom’s
development.52 A continuation of this phenomenon was hence only to be expected
when Christianity was introduced to the population of China.
51
This, of course, mainly refers to the Jesuit accommodationalists around Roberto Nobili. See
Cathérine Cornille, The Guru in Indian Catholicism - Ambiguity or Opportunity of Inculturation?,
Louvain: Peeters Press 1991.
52 A detailed analysis of the “pagan-Christian” synthesis in southern Africa can be found in Bengt G.
M. Sundkler, Bantu Prophets in South Africa, London: Lutterworth Press 1948 and Berthold Adolf
Pauw, Religion in a Tswana Chiefdom, Westport / Connecticut: Greenwood Press 1985 (originally
published in 1960 by the International African Institute). Pauw concludes, pp. 5-12 and 238, that
Christianity had largely supplanted the previous magico-religious system, but not without a
simultaneous process of “mutual influence”, expressed in the survival of certain rituals and
metaphysical concepts. The ancestor cult was hence part of a divine duty to look after the ‘wellbeing’ of
the ancestors’ souls. See ibidem, pp. 215-216 and 249-251. On the same topic see also Charles Nyamiti,
Christ as our Ancestor: Christology from an African Perspective, Gweru / Zimbabwe: Mambo Press
1984, pp. 35-38. For a contemporary example from South America, see María José Caram, “The Shape
of Catholic Identity among the Aymara of Pilcuyo”, in: Bamat and Wiest, Popular Catholicism in a
World Church, pp. 56-86.
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4. Japan’s “Hidden Christians”
Having established their missionary headquarters for the Eastern Mission in
Goa, the Jesuits attempted to cast their net to the farthest corner of the known East:
Japan. First contacts were made in August 1549, when the Navarran Jesuit Francis
Xavier (1506-1552) touched firm ground at Kagoshima, accompanied by the first
Japanese convert - Yajiro, a samurai who had escaped to Malacca on board a
Portuguese ship five years earlier.53 The Jesuit mission in nearby Nagasaki swiftly
gained in popularity, producing crowds of converts and stimulating the curiosity of
non-religious onlookers.54 Owing to the complications of the contemporary political
situation, the mass conversions quickly acquired a relevance surpassing the purely
religious. The latter half of the sixteenth century was characterised by an increasingly
violent struggle for supremacy among Japan’s regional warlords, the daimyo.
One such daimyo, Oda Nobunaga (1535-1582), amassed a huge following among
Japan’s Christians, and - greatly aided by European guns imported by his Jesuit allies was preparing to utilise his “Christian battalions” in order to eliminate all
contenders.55 The bitter warfare reached its end when Hideyoshi established his rule
after Nobunaga’s assassination in 1582. Hideyoshi (1536-1600) regarded the Christian
missionaries with increasing suspicion, in particular since the Spanish and Portuguese
were swiftly expanding their military and commercial presence throughout eastern
53 See Stephen Turnbull, The Kakure Kirishitan of Japan, p. 28 ff. Also Ann M. Harrington, Japan’s
Hidden Christians, Chicago: Loyola University Press 1993, pp. 3-5. For a more extensive bibliography,
see Johannes Laures, Kirishitan Bunko: A Manual of Books and Documents on the Early Christian
Mission in Japan, Monumenta Nipponica Monographs V, Tokyo: Sophia University Press 1957.
54 For a detailed account of the very beginnings of missionary activity in Japan, see Charles Ralph
Boxer, The Christian Century in Japan, 1549-1650, Berkeley / Los Angeles: University of California
Press and London: Cambridge University Press 1951, pp. 36-40 and 95-104.
55 See M. Steichen, The Christian Daimyos: A Century of Religious and Political History in Japan
(1549-1650), Tokyo: Rikkyo Gakuin Press [1903], pp. 49-58, as well as pp. 78-80 on Nobunaga’s
death.
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Asia.56 Official reprisals and an overall tendency to contain the Christian mission in
Japan without seeking to eliminate it completely were the consequence of Hideyoshi’s
apprehension. His successor Hideyori attempted to retain his father’s political
authority, but quickly found himself confronted with the formidable fighting force of
Ieyasu Tokugawa. The decisive battle of Sekigahara (21 October 1600), between the
followers of the Tokugawa clan and the - mostly Christian - defenders of Hideyori,
was followed by the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate in 1603 - a major event
in Japanese history, forcing all remaining rivals to swear loyalty to the new rulers or
face the consequences. Though initially tolerant of Christianity in general and
supportive of Christian warlords in particular, the Tokugawa shogunate came to view
affiliation to Christianity as a sign of disloyalty, following the increasing Buddhist
fervour of Ieyasu towards the end of his life. Ieyasu’s hardening attitude towards
Christianity combined with the imprudent behaviour of foreigners within Japan and
along its coastal shores, produced the edict of 27 January 1614.57 Opposition by
Christian daimyos and - crucially - the peasant uprising of 1638 triggered an instant
and violent repression which annihilated all but tiny pockets of Christian communities
and which closed off Japan from all but the most essential contacts with the outside
world.58 Christians who decided to remain loyal to their ancestral beliefs now faced
the bitter alternative of either publicly renouncing their faith, by trampling a crucifix
56
Ibidem, pp. 77-78, 82-85, 86-96 and 141-157 on the crucial stages of Hashiba [Toyotomi]
Hideyoshi’s military and political career. Hideyoshi’s malconceived campaign against Korea (and
hence the Ming) as well as his end are covered on pp. 210-214.
57 Full translation of the edict in Steichen, The Christian Daimyos, pp. 273-277. The edict of 1614 is
also referred to in A. Harrington, Japan’s Hidden Christians, p. 26 ff.
58 Ibidem, pp. 297-310 (Hideyori’s resistance) and pp. 329-342 (Shimabara rebellion). The political
repercussions - i.e. Hideyoshi’s reactions - against Japan’s Christians are illustrated in George Elison,
Deus Destroyed, pp. 109-141. See also C. R. Boxer, The Christian Century in Japan, pp. 389-397 and
Ohashi Yukihiro, “New Perspectives on the Early Tokugawa Persecution”, in John Breen and Mark
Williams (eds), Japan and Christianity - Impacts and Responses, Basingstoke / England: Macmillan
Press 1996, pp. 46-62
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or icon, or drastic punishment.59 Thus forced into an underground existence, Japan’s
“hidden Christians” held out in more than a dozen localities in Japan’s outlying
districts.60 During the centuries of enforced secrecy, the ritual aspects of Japanese
Christianity underwent a process of inculturation, which centred on the inclusion of
local animistic beliefs as well as elements of Buddhism. Curiously, though fully
autonomous in every other regard, the “hidden Christians” seemed aware of the fact
that they were priestless, and hence unable to perform the sacraments.61 Though
church elders took over many of the ritual functions within their communities, they
could not absolve believers and consequently not offer the Eucharist. Instead,
believers turned directly to Mary to intercede.62 Converts were frequently torn
59 This public act, referred to as fumi-e , was part of the Tokugawa’s policy to force all
Christian households to renounce Christianity by registering with a Buddhist temple. See Stephen
Turnbull, The Kakure Kirishitan of Japan, p. 41 ff. See also G. Elison, Deus Destroyed, pp. 204-207
for this and other examples of techniques intended to lead to apostasy.
60 The fate of Japan’s “hidden Christians” during the Tokugawa period has produced an academic
curiosity in the West out of proportion with the Christian community’s size or importance, and maybe
comparable to the Western interest in the Kaifeng Jews in China. Articles were first published by
astonished Westerners who arrived after the forced opening of Japan in 1853. The community’s
historical development is reflected in the terminology used: initially referred to as “secret Christians”
(senpuku kirishitan  ), owing to their reclusive existence in face of
ubiquitous persecution, an autonomous sense of religious identity was reached by the end of the
prohibition of Christianity in Japan (1873). This autonomy is generally expressed through the term
“hidden” (kakure ) to signify “secret” Christians who decided to remain separate from the newly
introduced church structures after 1873. The changes in terminology are analysed in Stephen Turnbull,
The Kakure Kirishitan of Japan, pp. 1-3. In English, the term “crypto-Christianity” is equally well
established. For a case study on the kakure kirishitan in the outlying island of Ikitsuki , see
William D. Bray, “The Hidden Christians of Ikitsuki Island”, in: The Japan Christian Quarterly, 26
(1960), pp. 76-84. The case is also covered in A. M. Harrington, Japan’s Hidden Christians, pp. 42 ff.
61 The Jesuit missionaries had created a three-tiered structure, which divided the Japanese church (circa
120,000 members by 1574) into “catechists” (dojuku, circa 260 by 1604), “brothers” (iruman, mostly
European, but including circa 70 Japanese in 1592) and “fathers” (bateren, only two Japanese by 1603),
the latter two terms having been derived from the Portuguese. Whereas Japanese Christians were
encouraged to join the first two categories from the very beginning of the Jesuit mission, the “Japanosceptical” attitude during the visitorship of Francisco Cabral (1528-1609) prevented Japanese nationals
from becoming bateren, and therefore to administer the sacraments. The three-fold appointment of the
accommodationist Alessandro Valignano as the official visitor to the Japan mission (1579-1582, 159092 and 1598-1603) overturned this unwritten rule, although the increasing pressure on the Christian
communities as well as an inherent reluctance from the part of many European priests kept the number
of Japanese priests at a bare minimum. See C. R. Boxer, The Christian Century in Japan, pp. 211-212,
and J. F. Schütte / J. Coyne, Valignano’s Mission Principles for Japan, Part I, pp. 200-203, and Part II,
The Solution (1580-1582), pp. 281-299.
62 A fact also related to the increased veneration of Mary during the period of Japan’s exposure to
Catholic Christianity, the Counter-Reformation. See Stephen Turnbull, Devotion to Mary among the
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between adherence to the traditional spirits and those of the Christian creed.63 In
aspects crucial to the self-understanding of the Japanese, such as the strong bonds
which link the individual to family and country, Japanese Christianity soon underwent
a process of profound inculturation.64 The iconography and ritual of the Hidden
Christians reflected this process: Depictions of Christ and of the saints soon acquired
Asiatic features, whereas patterns from Japanese mythology began to permeate kakure
legends of saints and miracles. Rapid Japanification during the first decades of the
anti-Christian edicts can of course also be explained as attempts to mislead
prosecuting officials, by making Christian cultic objects visibly almost impossible to
separate from Shinto and Buddhist ones. Nevertheless, the underground communities
found it necessary to take the greatest caution to conceal such objects from the eyes of
curious - and potentially dangerous - onlookers.65
While this Asian facet was being added to the history of Christianity, similar
developments were taking place hundreds of kilometres further west. The European
missionaries who had set out to convert the Japanese soon began to make preparations
Hidden Christians of Japan, Wallington / England: The Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary
1993, pp. 15-16. And see Léonide Guiot, La Mission du Su-tchuen au XVIIIme siècle, p. 173 for the
example of the Mgr Pottier as a devotional follower of the Virgin.
63 No more so than at the our of death: In his last gasps, an old convert gathered all his strength and
exclaimed the name of the local deity Tenbo. A bystanding Christian admonished his confrère to shout
the word deus instead, which the latter compliantly did. During his last hours, the old man interchanged
the names of both gods freely, while the other Christian watched out for breaches of Christian doctrine
in the final prayers. The convert ended his earthly existence with a Christian rosary around his neck and
the words of the pagan god on his lips. See Antonio Sisto Rosso, Apostolic Legations to China of the
Eighteenth Century, South Pasadena: Perkins 1948, p. 96.
64 Expounded, using the example of the gozensama and of Shinto traditions of kami , in
Stephen Turnbull, The Kakure Kirishitan of Japan, pp. 104-110. Briefly referred to in A. Harrington,
Japan’s Hidden Christians, pp. 133-137. The same point was forcefully made by Turnbull, The Kakure
Kirishitan of Japan, pp. 111-137, where the transformation of martyr graves into Shinto shrines is
analysed. The interaction of Christianity with traditional Japanese culture in a more modern setting has,
for instance, been analysed in J. F. Howes, “Japan’s Christians and the State”, in: Steven Kaplan (ed.),
Indigenisation - Responses to Western Christianity, New York: New York University Press 1995, pp.
75-95.
65 Artfully crafted cavities in beams and pillars became a frequent hiding place. For more information
on Christian responses to the Tokugawa inquisition (the shumon-aratame yaku ),
see Stephen Turnbull, The Kakure Kirishitan of Japan, pp. 45-49. The photographic plates between pp.
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to become active in the Ming empire, refining the missionary techniques developed in
India and Japan. In the following paragraph, the cultural parameters of late imperial
China will be briefly presented as the most important hurdle facing the Christian
missionaries. These parameters would ultimately also determine the inculturation of
Christianity into a recognisably Chinese expression of religiosity.
148 and 149 clearly illustrate the artistic and ritual inculturation which had occurred within popular
Japanese Christianity.
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Chapter 3:
The evolution of Chinese Christianity
1. The role of religion in Chinese popular culture
Akin to the ancient civilisations of the Mediterranean, the main themes that
recur in early Chinese mythology find their origin in the primaeval experience of
human beings struggling with nature for subsistence.1 The creative forces of nature are
expressed in the desire to multiply, both referring to the human community and to its
livestock; this desire is counteracted by phenomena of death and mutilation - all of
which require explanations surpassing the immediate natural reality.2 Despite this
common basis, Han culture differs from other civilisations in the role allocated to
religion.3 The very first hurdle for the Christian missionary in China was the absence
of a commonly accepted creation myth. Instead, a number of traditions explain the
inception of “civilisation”: The refinement of food, irrigation, architecture and the
invention of a writing system - all characteristics which, in their collective
imagination, set the Han apart from their neighbours.4 Another stumbling block was
the absence of a monotheistic tradition; recognised supreme deities from Chinese
antiquity, such as “Heaven” tian ,5 or the “Supreme Lord” shangdi ,6 were
1
Eloquently introduced in Cl. Lévi-Strauss, The Raw and the Cooked, Chicago: Chicago University
Press 1983. See also C. K. Yang, Religion in Chinese Society, p. 66 ff.
2 See Henri Maspero, Le Taoïsme et les religions chinoises, Paris: Gallimard 1971, pp. 7-86.
3 Zongjiao , the term currently used for “religion”, is a nineteenth century loan from the
Japanese (pronounced shukyo, literally “ancestral teachings” - or maybe “teaching of the orthodox”).
See K. Dean, Lord of the Three in One, p. 10, footnote 8. For a systematic analysis of religious life in
China, see Hans Küng and Julia Ching, Christianity and Chinese Religions, New York and London:
Doubleday 1989, in particular pp. 3-5. See also p. 265, footnote 29 of this thesis.
4 See the Hanfeizi - translated and edited by Tchang Fou-jouei, as Initiation à la langue
classique chinoise à partir de trois chapitres les plus representatifs du Hanfeizi, Paris: Librairie Youfeng 1987, chapter “Wudu”  (“The five vermin”), pp. 44-181 - for such elements of perceived
cultural and civilisational superiority.
5 Christian hopes of missionary victory centred upon the presumption that the “Ruler of Heaven”
(tianzhu ) of ancient Confucianism could soon be substituted by the Judeo-Christian “God”.
Such hopes were nourished by successful intellectual encounters during the early period of the Jesuit
presence in China, when several scholar officials began to integrate Christian notions of deity into preexisting Confucian patterns of thought. See Benjamin A. Elman, Classicism, Politics, and Kinship: The
Ch’ang-chou School of New Text Confucianism in Late Imperial China, Berkeley / Los Angeles /
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either too abstract for the understanding of the general population, or too concretely
restricted to the realm of agriculture (as in the cults of “Lord Millet” houjiƒΖand of
“Uncle Soil” tubo). The traditional gods were far from being almighty. Their
influence definitely did not extend into the subterranean quarters where the souls of
the dead are guarded over by the “Earth Official” tuguan , popularly
worshipped during the late imperial period. Dominated by rivers - specifically the
Yellow River and the Yangtse - the river gods were seen simultaneously as the
providers of livelihood and the source of tremendous destructive forces.7 Gods and
spirits inhabited every niche of China’s agrarian society. The lack of a common
mythological matrix hence required a far greater willingness to “adapt” Christian
teachings to local Chinese traditions than in missionary regions adjacent to the
Christian West. Confident of belonging to a superior civilisation, Han converts
interpreted the missionaries’ message as compatible with their own traditions, and
within their own reference framework. The parameters for Christianity’s inculturation
were hence set from the very beginning of missiological intercourse.
By the end of the imperial period, the vast number of spiritual beings
venerated by the Chinese peasantry had been hierarchised into one pantheon of gods,
spirits, saints, immortalised heroes and venerated humans.8 The compatibility of
Oxford: University of California Press 1990, pp. 90-91 and 140-141 on the influence of such Christian
concepts on the nascent New Text tradition of Confucianism.
6 See Gunnar Sjöholm (ed.), Readings in Mo Ti, Chapters XXVI-XXVIII: On the Will of Heaven,
Helsingborg: Plus Ultra 1982, in particular pp. 98-99 (on tian , di and shang [di] ).
The ruler is hence both sacrificing high-priest and sacrificial object, ready to be given up for the greater
good if he has transgressed against celestial principles. See also Hans Küng and Julia Ching,
Christianity and Chinese Religions, pp. 24-26.
7 The Lord of the River Hebo  demanded in a yearly sacrificial rite a virgin girl from the
villagers inhabiting the banks of the Yellow River. These would watch in awe as the bed tied to their
sacrificial daughter was carried away, until the fluvial lord had embraced her in his cold arms. See
Maspero, Le Taoïsme et les religions chinoises, p. 16.
8 Or maybe rather a pandemonium, owing to the scepticism of the Chinese peasant towards any one god
in particular. A model outlining hierarchies within popular worship (and communal action) can be
found in David K. Jordan, Gods, Ghosts, and Ancestors - The Folk Religion of a Taiwanese Village,
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Buddhism with the “polydemonistic” imagination of the populace is astonishing:
Despite the constant emphasis on the abstract nature of the Buddha (the “One Face of
the Thousand Buddhas”, qianfo yimian ), the people enthusiastically
venerated the appearances of the spiritual power supportive of Buddhism as
protective spiritual beings.9 The worship of concrete spirits also facilitated a
fraternisation with Daoistic patron saints.10 Would eighteenth-century Catholicism with its legion of patron saints, martyrs and beatified clerics - follow suit and become
the focus of popular worship? The following section will seek to shed light on the
interaction of popular religion with “missionary imports”, both in terms of missionary
techniques and of indigenous responses.
Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press 1972, p. 171. Jordan complemented
his study together with Daniel Overmyer with The Flying Phoenix: Aspects of Chinese Sectarianism in
Taiwan, Princeton: Princeton University Press 1986. See also the review article by Timothy Barrett,
“History Writing and Spirit Writing in Seventeenth Century China”, in: Modern Asian Studies XXIII-3
(July 1989), pp. 601-608.
For more details on the inhabitants of the Chinese pan-demonium, see Hou Jie  and
Fan Lizhu , Zhongguo minzhong zongjiao yishi “ Concepts of
Popular Chinese Religion”), Tianjin: Tianjin renmin chubanshe 1994, pp.
138 ff. and 172 ff. Also Clarence B. Day: Chinese Peasant Cults - Being a Study of Chinese Paper
Gods, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore 1940 (appendix), and of course the entire Fengshen yanyi
. For a modern reprint, see Xu Zhonglin , Fengshen yanyi ,
Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe  1991.
9 This includes divine beings at a lower level of spirituality, such as the pusa , “Bodhisattvas”
luohan  , “High Priests” gaoseng and the “celestial spirits”, tianshen. For further
details, see Hou Jie and Fan Lizhu, Zhongguo minzhong zongjiao yishi, pp. 145-148. See also Vladimir
Vyacheslavovich Malyavin, “Zhongguo minjian zongjiao qushi ”
(“Trends in Chinese Popular Religion”) in: Shijie zongjiao yanjiu , 1/1994, pp.
122-124.
10 Cf. Qing Xitai and Tang Dachao, Daojiaoshi( “History of
Daoism”), Beijing: Zhongguo shehui kexue chubanshe  1994, as
well as Kristofer Marinus Schipper, “Sources of Modern Popular Worship in the Taoist Canon”, in:
Proceedings of the “International Conference on Popular Beliefs and Chinese Culture”
, Taibei: Hanxue yanjiu zhongxin
 1994, volume I, pp. 1-23.
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2. Missionary traditions: Buddhists, Nestorians, Catholics
The first Catholic emissary to arrive in China was the Franciscan Giovanni da
Montecorvino, residing at the Mongol court in Dadu (Beijing) between 1298 and
1318.11 Though his mission proved ephemeral, it was typical of a long tradition of
hospitality towards emissaries of foreign religious thought. Already during the Han
period (207 BC - 220 AD), when the first missionaries of Buddhism crossed the
Himalayas from India, the population of the Han empire found itself confronted with
unfamiliar spiritual concepts.12 The new philosophy was initially predominant among
the social elite, who had embraced Buddhism as spiritual solace in times of dire
circumstances: While the Han empire was disintegrating, rational Confucian doctrine
no longer seemed to provide answers to the fundamental problems of life. In the
communities of rural China, Daoist cults had culminated in millenarian movements,
often with complex organisational patterns. Following the end of the Han, popular
religiosity increasingly embraced elements of Buddhist teaching - at times encouraged
by Buddhist missionaries, at times absorbed through the medium of converts, who
proffered their own interpretation of Buddhist principles. There were considerable
barriers to the introduction of Buddhism in China, including the most fundamental
problem - language. Within a short period of time, the Buddhist missionaries from the
Subcontinent had mastered sufficient Chinese to engage in a meaningful dialogue with
the local population. But the problem of conveying concepts which were alien to Han
culture required a heightened sense of ingenuity; borrowing pre-existing terminology,
11
Most historical accounts of Christianity in China - bar those focusing on Nestorianism - begin with
this mission. The reference tool for (Catholic) missionaries and missions between 1307 (Montecorvino
made archbishop of the Yuan capital) and the beginning of the republican period is Joseph de Moidrey,
La Hiérarchie Catholique en Chine, en Corée et au Japon (1307-1914), Xujiahui [Zi-Ka-Wei] /
Shanghai: Imprimerie de l’orphelinat de T’ou-sè-wè 1914. See also P. S. Hsiang, The Catholic Missions
in China during the Middle Ages, 1294-1368, Cleveland / Ohio: Zubal 1984.
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from Daoist sources and other traditions, undoubtedly brought connotations which
transformed the original meaning significantly. The same process, on the other hand,
would also alter the understanding of the loan words themselves. A Daoist term, for
instance, once it had been generally accepted in its new Buddhist connotation, would
never be confined to its exclusively Daoist sense any more.13 This would invariably
lead to conflict with the representatives of established religious systems, who would
launch a “counter-offensive” against aspects deemed incompatible with or offensive to
their tradition. Religious elements acceptable to a small number of converts from
among the social elite - such as celibacy, transcendentalism and the neglect of physical
well-being - would become marginalised or even eradicated in the transition to
popular Buddhist practice. Less radical stipulations, such as fasting and vegetarianism,
were accepted by a smaller margin, whereas those elements most akin to
contemporary thought were quickly incorporated into existing patterns of religious
life.14 This was particularly true for the millenarian tendencies which erupted at
regular intervals during the course of China’s imperial history, threatening the stability
of the ruling dynasties. Though differing through time and local tradition, the
beginning of a glorious new era, preceded by the destruction of the present world,
would be heralded by the arrival of the Maitreya Buddha. The Maitreya figure is
regarded
as
the
successor
to
the
Sakyamuni
Buddha
(Shijiamuni-fo
), ruler over the present world, and is also known as the
12
See Erik Zürcher, The Buddhist Conquest of China - the Spread and Adaptation of Buddhism in
Early Mediaeval China, Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1959.
13 Cf. James Huntley Grayson, Early Buddhism and Christianity in Korea - A Study in the Implantation
of Religion, Leiden: E. J. Brill 1985, in particular pp. 13 ff. and 140-143. After establishing some
general observations concerning the inculturation of religious systems, Grayson demonstrates that
Christianity spread through Korean society in a fashion analogous to Buddhism many centuries earlier.
14 This is not the place for a full account of Buddhism’s development in imperial China. For a concise
introduction to popular Buddhism during the later imperial period, see Daniel Overmyer, Folk Buddhist
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“Compassionate Buddha” (Mile-fo ), the “Buddha of the Future” (Weilai-fo
) and ruler over the “Western World of Ultimate Bliss”(Xifang jileshijie
).15 Maitreyan cults gradually absorbed most existing Daoist
movements, with the effect that by the beginning of the Ming-Qing period Buddhism
and Daoism were largely identical at a popular level. Inculturation had hence turned
Indian Buddhism into a thoroughly “Chinese” phenomenon.16
Christianity was not a stranger to Chinese civilisation either: The first
Christians - referred to as Nestorians17 - had arrived in China as refugees, seeking
shelter from tensions within the Christian churches and also from the incipient force
of Islam. After the year 630, these immigrants established themselves as traders in the
metropoles of the Tang, Song and Yuan. The Christian message, i.e. the tale of the
sacrifice of the incarnate Son of God for the redemption of mankind from sinful
existence and infernal punishment, was first introduced to a Chinese audience in the
year 638. The “sutras” composed by Nestorian clerics reveal an understanding of the
Chinese host culture which rivalled the inculturating effort of Buddhism. The main
Religion - Dissenting Sects in Late Imperial China, Cambridge / Massachusetts 1986 [first published in
1976].
15 Often identified with the Amithabha Buddha (Amituofo ).
16 Chinese Buddhism was supported by a plethora of institutions - from well-established monasteries to
individual charitable foundations - though it lacked a hierarchical organisation which could have turned
it into a “church”. See Erik Zürcher, Bouddhisme, christianisme et société chinoise, Paris: Julliard
1990, p. 27. Also, in the same context, Hubert Seiwert, “Hochkultur und fremde Religion: Buddhismus
und Katholizismus in China”, in: M. Pye and Renate Stegerhoff (eds), Religion in fremder Kultur:
Religion als Minderheit in Europa und Asien, Saarbrücken-Scheidt: Verlag Rita Dadder 1987, pp. 5576. Seiwert defends Gernet’s view of ‘cultural conflict’, while focusing on the concept of “recoupment”
- already defined in Michael Pye, “The Transplantation of Religions”, pp. 234-239 - as the main
missionary technique of both (Mahayana) Buddhism and (Catholic) Christianity. See Hubert Seiwert,
“Hochkultur und fremde Religion”, pp. 55 and 63-64.
17 After the Syrian bishop Nestorius (380-451). Nestorius argued that Jesus had two separate natures,
one divine and one human, thus contradicting the orthodox position of monophysitism. His teachings
were condemned in three successive councils, and his disciples put under considerable pressure to
conform. Eventually, only the Persian church retained the doctrines of Nestorius, known in Iran and
Iraq as the Chaldean church. Nestorian Christianity was referred to in China as the “Luminous
Religion” (Jingjiao ). Atiya, A History of Eastern Christianity, pp. 257-271 contains a summary
of the expansion of the Nestorian church in the Middle East and Central Asia. For a history of
Nestorianism in China, see Arthur Christopher Moule, Christians in China before 1550, London:
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reason for the marginal status of the Christian church - and ultimately for its
extinction after Nestorianism’s twilight during the 13th and 14th centuries - was to be
found in the reluctance of the leading clerics to elevate ethnically Chinese priests to
the highest positions within the Nestorian hierarchy. Despite its early missionary
success, the religion thus never overcame its quality as a “foreign” religion, always
being highly dependent on the sympathy of the ruling dynasty.18 Though our
knowledge of the Nestorian communities is rather limited, we know that the Christian
immigrants gradually adopted the cultural and civilisational patterns of their Chinese
hosts. It is also known that the Nestorian missionaries adapted their parables to the
agricultural reality of the rural Han, following a pattern also used by Buddhist monks:
Morality plays enacted on market squares, performances of miracles and of
supernatural apparitions were intended to create curiosity and to convince the
astounded villagers of the protective qualities of the propagated religion.
The trade routes connecting China with the Middle East also enabled
representatives of other beliefs to enter China: Merchants from the Arabian Peninsula
brought the tidings of Islam, while Iranian and Central Asian itinerants introduced the
customs of Manicheans, Jews and Christians of various denominations. This multi-
Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge 1930. Also Claude Philibert Dabry de Thiersant, Le
catholicisme en Chine au VIIIe siècle de notre ère, Paris: Ernest Leroux 1877.
18 Nicolas Standaert - quoting Erik Zürcher, Syllabus “Boedhisme in China: adaptatie en reactie”,
Leiden: Sinologisch Instituut 1978 - explained this missionary ‘success’ as proof for the hypothesis that
“ideas are most easily absorbed when they are believed not to be foreign”. Nicolas Standaert, “Chinese
Christian Visits to the Underworld”, in: Leonard Blussé and Harriet T. Zurndorfer (eds), Conflict and
Accommodation in Early Modern East Asia: Essays in Honour of Erik Zürcher, Leiden, New York and
Cologne: E. J. Brill 1993, p. 68 (also note 46). The discoveries made by Paul Pelliot in the caves of
Dunhuang include the Messiah Sutra (Mishihe jing), compilations of Nestorian tracts (in
Syriac and in Chinese), as well as the Gloria in Excelsis (Sanwei zhongdu zang ,
literally: “Hymn to the Three Majesties for obtaining salvation”). A copy, translation and interpretation
of the latter can be found in A. C. Moule, Christians in China before 1550, pp. 59-63. For more
information, see Jean-Paul Wiest, “Learning from the Missionary Past”, in J.-P. Wiest and E. Tang
(eds), The Catholic Church in Modern China, pp. 186-189. Current knowledge is anything but
complete, and future research may well force us to reinterpret this religious tradition.
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ethnic mosaic eventually became integrated into the socio-religious fabric of the Han
majority, leaving behind traces of their original customs and beliefs.19
When in the late sixteenth century the Propaganda Fide eventually attempted
to open up all of Asia to the Catholic world mission, Jesuits and Dominicans,
Franciscans and Augustinians vied for the attention of the Chinese populace.20 Using
the Portuguese possessions of Goa and Macau as their entrepôts, the first Jesuits
entered Japan in 1549 and China in the late 1590s. When the most prominent
exponent of the new religion, Matteo Ricci (Li Madou ) arrived at the court
of the Ming (in Beijing) in 1602, he set a trend for the remainder of the Jesuit mission
in China. The Jesuit policy of accommodation had been influenced by the experiments
of their confrères in India and in Japan, most of all by Roberto Nobili, and was now
being adjusted to the world of Chinese elite culture and philosophy.21 Though
despised by the missionaries of the mendicant orders and conservative scholarofficials alike, Ricci and Jesuit successors survived the transition from the Chinese
Ming dynasty to the Manchurian Qing during the 1640s. Owing to their position as
court officials, usually employed as mathematicians and astronomers, the Jesuits
concentrated on the conversion of leading scholar-officials and members of the
imperial clan, as part of a grand plan which envisaged the conversion of the entire
19
For more information on the missionary techniques of the Nestorian Christians, see Hou Jie and Fan
Lizhu, Zhongguo minzhong zongjiao yishi, pp. 28-31. An interesting parallel can be found in the
development of the Jewish community. Though never of any major significance, the history of China’s
Jews has been reconstructed with great interest, in particular since the arrival of the Jesuit missionaries
in the sixteenth century. Representative publications include Michael Pollak, Mandarins, Jews and
Missionaries - The Jewish Experience in the Chinese Empire, Philadelphia: Jewish Publishing Society
of America 1980, Sidney Shapiro, Jews in Old China - Studies by Chinese Scholars, New York:
Hippocrene Books 1984. Zhou Xun , Chinese Perceptions of the ‘Jews’ and Judaism: A History
of the Youtai, Richmond: Curzon Press 2000 provides a convincingly argued challenge to the multitude
of myths surrounding China’s Jewish community and heritage.
20 See C. Cary-Elwes, China and the Cross, pp. 81-86.
21 Nicolas Standaert illustrated the inculturation of Christian theology by analysing the Di-tian kao
( “Inquiry into the Rule(r) of Heaven”) by the seventeenth-century literatus Yan Mo
. See Nicolas Standaert, The Fascinating God, Rome: Pontifica Universitas Gregoriana 1995.
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population once the ruling elite had been convinced.22 No reign period seemed more
receptive to this approach than the rule of the Kangxi  emperor (1662-1723).
But at this crucial point, political factors emerged - both in Europe and in Qing China
- which were to derail the Jesuit experiment for good.
The reaction of the Chinese elite - and to a certain extent also of the general
population - to the introduction of Christianity can only be fathomed accurately if seen
against the philosophical background of the late imperial period. Certain notions
mooted by the elite eventually - albeit not in their entirety and in mutated form - also
entered the minds of rural China. The following section will argue that the intellectual
developments from the seventeenth to the early nineteenth century influenced the
state’s perception of popular religious movements in general and of popular
Christianity in particular. The most crucial philosophical transformations occurred
during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), the period witnessing the entry of modern
Christianity into China.
3. The philosophical landscape of late imperial China
a) Metaphysical speculation during the Ming
In order to conceptualise the intellectual environment in which Christianity
took root during the Ming and Qing, it is important to understand the vigour of
religious syncretism in the late imperial era. Though syncretism can be traced to the
22
The principle of subjecting the whole population to the religion of the ruler (“cuius regio, huius
religio”) had already been the practice since European antiquity and gained particular relevance in the
aftermath of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), when the Westphalian Peace divided Western and
Central Europe into Protestant and Catholic hemispheres. The great European schism was clearly of
paramount importance to the Jesuit missionaries of the seventeenth century. The personal and
intellectual backgrounds of the early Christian missionaries has been covered in great detail. For a
comprehensive bibliography see Erik Zürcher, Nicolas Standaert and Adrianus C. Dudink,
Bibliography of the Jesuit Mission in China (ca. 1580 - ca. 1680), Leiden: Centre of Non-Western
Studies Leiden University 1991.
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very beginnings of Chinese civilisation,23 the tendency to amalgamate ostensibly
similar concepts and phenomena from different traditions culminated during the Ming
and early Qing.24 These intellectual trends can be seen as a reaction against changes in
the social order of the later Ming empire which threatened its social stability and
external security. By the end of the sixteenth century, the lure of the ever-expanding
commercial sector in the Lower Yangtse Delta made it highly attractive to engage in
activities such as credit issuing through pawn shops, trading in silver and the
manufacturing of fabrics and silk. The Confucian elite, who traditionally frowned
upon commercial activity, used their official privileges (such as being exempt from
tax and corvée) in order to maximise profits generated by the supervision of irrigation
works, watermills, ferries and markets.25 It was not unheard of that local officials and
members of the literati elite even founded temples with the purpose of selfenrichment.26 The authority of the state was in decline, unable to stem the loss of
moral integrity among the literati and the alienation experienced by tillers and
workhands. Consequently, commoners responded to official corruption by abandoning
their agricultural duties in order to join self-defence militias, bandit gangs and
The earliest recorded popular syncretic movement was the Sanjiao dingzu  (“Tripod
of the Three Teachings”). See Qin Baoqi , Zhongguo dixia shehui,
(“China’s Underground Societies”), Beijing: Xueyuan chubanshe  1993, p. 148.
More information on popular syncretism can be found in Ma Xisha and Han
Bingfang, Zhongguo minjian zongjiaoshi (“A History of Chinese
Popular Religion”), Shanghai: Shanghai renmin chubanshe 1992, p. 764.
24 Daoist tradition nevertheless retained an undeniable attraction to many religious people during the
late imperial period. The services provided by the hermit Duan Yunyang on Wudang Mountain during
the first half of the eighteenth century bear witness to this. See John Lagerwey, “The Pilgrimage to Wutang Shan”, in: Susan Naquin and Chü-fang Yü (eds), Pilgrims and Sacred Sites, p. 302.
25 For failed candidates of the state examinations, a commercial career was often the only alternative to
a life in permanent struggle. In the words of a fifteenth century jinshi from Huizhou: “It is not until a
man has been repeatedly frustrated in his scholarly pursuit that he gives up his studies and takes up
trade. After he has accumulated substantial savings he encourages his descendants, in planning for their
future, to give up trade and take up studies. Trade and studies thus alternate with each other ... This can
be likened to the revolution of a wheel, with it spokes touching the ground in turn. How can be there a
preference for any one profession?” Cited in G. W. Skinner, “Mobility Strategies in Late Imperial
China”, p. 357.
23
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millenarian movements promising salvation from earthly misery. The increasingly
unstable social situation thus directly favoured the spread of transcendentalism,
offering succour to the suffering, and eternal justice to those who felt disadvantaged
by a corrupt elite.27
To counterbalance the avarice of their peers - and to contain the proliferation
of social discontent - concerned scholar-officials sought to regain some of the moral
authority they had once been reputed for. For almost one millennium since its
elevation to state doctrine during the Han dynasty, Confucianism had been confined to
the highest strata of Chinese society. Concerned Confucians began to popularise their
ideals, by borrowing concepts developed by Song and Ming intellectuals, in particular
those of Wang Yangming (1472-1529) and his disciples. Late Ming
idealists took this syncretic Confucianism to the village squares, propelled by the
vision of universal education. Apart from lecturing in public, the late Ming idealists
encouraged voluntary associations, and in particular the village solidarity groups
(xiangyue ) intended to relieve the state from policing the countryside, but also
to scrutinise the families within a village structure for signs of seditious affiliations.
While elite perceptions originated from earlier, purely academic traditions, similar
ideas could frequently also be found in a more popular setting.28 The Three-in-One
philosophy formulated by Lin Zhaoen (1517-1598), for instance, drew on
26 ... - a practice categorically prohibited by the imperial administration. See K. C. Hsiao, Rural China,
p. 234.
27 Daniel Bays has stressed the importance all religious movements - including popular Christianity attached to egalitarianism, if not in this world then in afterlife. See Daniel H. Bays, “Christianity and the
Chinese Sectarian Tradition”, in: Ch’ing-Shih Wen-T’i, IV-7 (June 1982), p. 38 ff. His main arguments
are reiterated in his chapter, “Christianity and Chinese Sects: Religious Tracts in the Late Nineteenth
Century”, in: Barnett and Fairbank, Christianity in China, pp. 121-134, in particular on pp. 122-129.
28 This Quest for the Dao is illustrated in Ma Xisha and Han Bingfang, Zhongguo minjian zongjiaoshi,
pp. 787-788. The authors argue that the elite tradition of searching for the “one unifying concept”
behind all human philosophy (Dao yi jiao san “One Truth [in] Three Teachings”) also
existed within popular philosophy.
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widely accepted notions within folk religion.29 Whereas Lin approached the pursuit of
the True Dao from an almost theological angle30, the intellectual elite had long since
begun to create its own devices to accommodate spiritual needs with the quest for
philosophical purity.31 This holistic approach emphasised the main tenets of Buddhist
chan thought, and was popularised by philosophers such as Wang Gen
(1483-1541).32 Li Zhi  (alias Li Zhuowu , 1527-1602),
Muslim by birth, had a least some degree of interest in the teachings of the Jesuit
scholar-missionaries.33 Despite such contacts, the missionaries active at the imperial
court had been largely unaware of the syncretic developments within Confucianism.34
29
Lin combined the “Neo-Confucianism” propounded by Wang Yangming with Buddhist concepts
spread by the lay jushi  movement and late imperial interpretations of Daoism (Quanzhendao
 “Path of Complete Truth”). Lin Zhaoen’s terminology - particularly when referring to
concepts such as Benevolence ren , Structure li , and Heart-and-Mind xin - may seem akin
to that of his Confucian contemporaries, but his syncretic teachings are endowed with an almost
mystical quality. Though rejecting “irrational” aspects, such as levitation and corporeal immortality,
ostentatious fasting, unreflected chanting of sutras and celibacy, his belief in the transcendental quality
of the soulare reminiscent of religious traditions within Daoism and Buddhism. Two further elements of
his philosophical work emphasise his role of the religious missionary: his quasi-messianic quest for a
unifying “successor” to the Three Teachings, to complete and replace those of the past; and the mere
fact that he managed to draw enthusiastic support from the peasantry. For further aspects of Lin
Zhaoen’s philosophy and work, see Ma Xisha and Han Bingfang, Zhongguo minjian zongjiaoshi, pp.
769-788 and 846-849, as well as Richard Hon-Chun Shek, “Religion and Society in Late Ming:
Sectarianism and Popular Thought in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century China”, PhD thesis:
University of California 1980, pp. 67-71. Also Judith A. Berling, The Syncretic Religion of Lin ChaoEn, New York: Columbia University Press 1980. For a discussion on the continuation of Lin Zhaoen’s
thought into the present era, see K. Dean, Lord of the Three in One, pp. 51-58 and 257-272.
30 Lin identified himself with the (Maitreya) Buddha, composed Maitreyan literature and freely
combined esoteric and ritual aspects of Chan and Daoist practice. See K. Dean, Lord of the Three in
One, p. 8. References to the Maitreya Buddha are, however, less “millenarian” rather than
“postapocalyptic”, since the Dao has already been revealed in Lin’s person and teaching. See ibidem, p.
23, footnote 25. For an introduction to Lin’s “Heart Method” (genbei xinfa ), as well as
other aspects of Three-in-One inner alchemy, see pp. 137-148.
31 Popular wisdom had long since held that literati claimed to be disciples of Confucius but were even
better disciples of Zhuangzi. See Tchang Fou-Jouei, Initiation à la langue classique chinoise à partir
d'extraits du Zhuangzi, Paris: Librairie You-Feng 1989, p. 5.
32 For more insight into the influence of Christianity on late Ming scholarship, see B. A. Elman,
Classicism, Politics, and Kinship, pp. 89-91.
33 His admiring appraisal of Matteo Ricci can be found in X. Wang, Christianity and Imperial Culture,
p. 93.
34 A letter by Joseph Milt (27-10-1806, from Fujian Province) illustrates - in a reported conversation
between a literatus and a missionary on the subject of Chinese ‘superstitions’ and Western astrology how the missionaries’ lack of insight into Chinese civilisation was taken up by members of the elite for
the purpose of mockery even two hundred years later. The same source suggests that scholars
sympathetic to the missionaries often criticised the Europeans for their simplistic view of Chinese
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Their study of the ancient Confucian scriptures had led the court Jesuits to the
assumption that Confucianism was mainly a set of philosophical maxims devoid of
religious notions such as sin and redemption. Lack of a metaphysical dimension, the
missionaries concluded, led to a spiritual vacuum in the human heart, for which
several teachings of diabolical extraction competed.35
During the eighteenth century societies of popular religious thought
proliferated, propagating the unity of the three philosophical traditions. Formations
such as the Teaching of the Great Emptiness36 often merged with sectarian groupings
with outright political motivation.37 A brief analysis of popular temples listed in local
gazetteers during the mid-Qing reveals that Buddhist and Daoist temples were
competing for public attention. Despite clearly expressed religious identities, the
philosophy. See idem, APF, SC, series III, Cina et Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, folium 215. On the
topic of marginality, relating to Jesuit and Buddhist priests, see also Lionel M. Jensen, Manufacturing
Confucianism: Chinese Traditions and Universal Civilization, Durham / North Carolina and London:
Duke 1997, p. 45.
35 This refers chiefly to the perceived threat by Buddhism, ironically condemned by the missionaries as
a non-“Chinese” (i.e. Confucian) import. Thus, we are tersely informed by D. F. Navarette that
Buddhism, “the sect of the idols of India, ... was brought into China sixty years after the birth after our
saviour. This curs’d sect has so spread, that it certainly far exceeds the Mahometans.” See his “Account
of the Empire of China ...”, London: Churchill 1732, pp. 75-76 (the “learned Sect” of the Confucians is
given ample space on pp. 165-220). For more general background concerning notions of sin and
redemption, see Hans Küng and Julia Ching, Christianity and Chinese Religions, pp. 73 and 117. The
controversy caused through a publication by the American-based dissident Zhang Hao, ascribing the
lack of democracy in China to a perceived moralo-spiritual deficiency of Confucianism, shows that the
views of seventeenth century Jesuits can still be made relevant today. See Zhang Hao , Youan
yishi yu minzhu chuantong  (“The awareness of darkness and
democratic tradition”), Taibei: Lianjing chubanshe 1989. The publication is
critically analysed in Lo Ping-cheung, “Sin, Liberalism, and Confucian Political Thought - A Comment
on Chang Hao’s Thesis”, in: Beatrice Leung and John D. Young, Christianity in China: Foundations
for Dialogue, Hong Kong: Centre for Asian Studies / University of Hong Kong 1993, pp. 179-200.
36 Kongzijiao - note the homophony with the honorific title Kong Zi for Confucius.
For more details, see Qin Baoqi, Zhongguo dixia shehui,p. 124.
37 Such politically oriented “secret societies” (mimi jiaodang ) were later instrumental
in the overthrow of the Qing. For a concise overview of the secret societies active “against the Qing for
the sake of restoring the Ming” (fanqing fuming ), see F. L. Davis, Primitive
Revolutionaries in China: A Study of Secret Societies in the Late Nineteenth Century, Honolulu:
University of Hawai’i Press 1971. The origins of the nineteenth-century secret societies is the topic of
the recent study by Barend J. ter Haar, Ritual and Mythology of the Chinese Triads: Creating an
Identity, Leiden and Boston: E.J. Brill 1992. See ibidem, in particular pp. 25-59. See also Frederic
Wakeman, Strangers at the Gate: Social Disorder in South China, 1839-1892, Berkeley: University of
California Press 1966, pp. 117-125.
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gazetteers place considerable emphasis on the common origins of the “three
teachings”. Thus we find, in the introduction to the “Chapter of Daoist and Buddhist
Saints” (“Xian-shi zhi” ) of the Ningbo gazetteer for 1725, the following
explanation:
When the Confucian literati praise Buddhism, ... it is because
Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism all share the same origin. Because
of this reason, the disciples of the Buddha and Lao Zi use every
opportunity to extol Confucianism, to explain and to propagate its
teachings to the members of the lower classes. Without any distinction, all
should be able to partake in the idea that the three teachings are originally
one. For this purpose the chapter on Daoist and Buddhist saints has been
compiled.38
A prime example of the merging of elite and popular traditions is the veneration
of Confucius, whom popular lore had by then turned into a saint inhabiting Halls of
Wisdom (rutang ), temples (kongmiao ) as well as the pantheon of
saints and sages.39 Though most commoners were unable to read, the body of
Confucian writings, alongside the concept of the written word, enjoyed sacrosanct
respect. This renders the notion of a sharp qualitative division between popular and
elite attitudes questionable, at least for the later imperial period, implying that the
socio-academic elite partook in the oral tradition of the uneducated population.40 The
38

. Zhongguo difangzhi jicheng “ A compilation of Chinese local
gazetteers”), vol. 30, Zhejiang fuxianzhi ji ( “Prefectural and district gazetteers
for Zhejiang”), Shanghai: Shanghai shuju 1993, “Yongzheng ningbofuzhi
”(“Ningbo Fu in the Yongzheng period”), Xian-shi  (‘Daoism and
Buddhism’), p. 929.
39 The entry “Confucianism” (Rujiao ) in the widely-used Zongjiao cidian reflects this
ambiguity. See Ren Xuyu (ed.), Zongjiao cidian  (“Dictionary of Religious
Terms”), Shanghai cishu chubanshe 1985, p. 1148.
40 On Confucius worship in late imperial China, see Hou Jie and Fan Lizhu, Zhongguo minzhong
zongjiao yishi,pp. 138 and 181-183. On the controversial topic of “little” and “great” forms of tradition,
see David Johnson, Ritual and Scripture in Chinese Popular Religion: Five Studies, Berkeley: Chinese
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issue is of great importance in the context of Christianity’s inculturation into the
intellectual and social traditions of late imperial China. During the Ming-Qing
transition, eminent members of the Confucian intelligentsia, such as Xu Guangqi
 (1562-1633), Li Zhizao  (1565-1630)and Yang Tingyun
 (1562-1627), converted to the Jesuits’ religion.41 In an intellectual climate
where differences between elite and popular perceptions became less pronounced, the
ability to share traditions with the general population would remove the stigma of
adhering to a popular “religious” movement. Simultaneously, the commoners had less
to fear from the elite, in terms of anti-heterodox action.
Popular Culture Project 1995. In general, the interpretation suggested by Erik Zürcher (on various
occasions; here a reference to the unpublished conference paper “Confucian and Christian Religiosity in
Late Ming China”, Hong Kong 1996 may suffice) appears convincing: from the most common
environment to the exclusive heights of scholarly achievement, the belief in supernatural phenomena
was generally accepted. This point was also emphatically stressed by Susan Naquin, at the ICAS
colloquium in Noordwijkerhout, in July 1998. Timothy Barrett, in his review article of The Flying
Phoenix, pointed out that the father of one of Yuan Mei’s friends, Peng Dingqiu (1645-1719) - a
celebrated Confucian scholar of the early Qing - also partook avidly in spiritualist seances. See T.
Barrett, “History Writing and Spirit Writing”, p. 604 on “Spirit Writing” - or the use of the planchette
(fuji ) - which is also referred to in Susan Naquin, “Transmission of White Lotus Sectarianism
in Late Imperial China”, in: D. Johnson, A. Nathan and E. Rawski (eds), Popular Culture in Late
Imperial China, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press 1985, p. 258.
Angela Zito, Of Body and Brush: Grand Sacrifice as Text / Performance in Eighteenth Century China,
Chicago: University of California Press 1997, p. 110 ff. offers further insight into the role of ritual in
the world of the literati during the eighteenth century (with particular reference to Dai Zhen).
41 See Nicolas Standaert, Yang Tingyun, in particular pp. 88-95. Summaries of all three lives can be
seen in X. Wang, Christianity and Imperial Culture, pp. 98-106.
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b) Anti-religious tendencies during the eighteenth century
When I meet a monk, I never fail to greet him;
When I see a Buddha, I never bow down.
If one bows to a Buddha, the Buddha does not know;
If one greets a monk, one is greeting what is actually there.42
The link between the different levels of social culture was weakened in the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when elite philosophy moved away from the
metaphysical aspects of Song-Ming Confucianism. Instead of encouraging spiritual
pursuits, early Qing philosophy emphasised practical action and devotion to the public
good.43 Due to the crucial importance of the Confucian classics for the civil service
examinations, any reinterpretation of the Classics, known as the Four Books and Five
Canonical Writings (Sishu wujing ), was bound to have political
consequences. Hence it is not surprising that the first developments towards a revision
of textual orthodoxy coincided with mounting political pressure on the private
academies, in particular of the Lower Yangtse Valley (the Jiangnan ), during
the latter half of the sixteenth century.44 This period of Ming history was characterised
by a weakening of dynastic leadership and the concomitant rise of eunuch factions,
while the grip of the central administration over the regions loosened considerably.
Political pressure climaxed between 1621 and 1624, when chief eunuch Wei
Zhongxian launched a ferocious attack against the scholar officials of the Donglin
The response of the literatus Yuan Mei  (1716-1797), when once urged to bow to the statue
of the Buddha. Cited in Arthur Waley, Yuan Mei: Eighteenth Century Chinese Poet, London: George
Allen and Unwin 1956, p. 144.
43 This process already began during the closing decades of the Ming dynasty and continued by
developing into several philosophical schools. For an introductory discussion, see Liang Qichao,
Intellectual Trends in the Ch’ing Period, Cambridge / Massachusetts: Harvard 1959, p. 5 (introductory
remarks by the translator, Immanuel C.Y. Hsü) and pp. 21-23. The work was completed in 1920,
intended to be the preface to a history of Chinese philosophy.
44 Due to the immense importance of the literati clans of the Changzhou  area, Qing New Text
scholarship is also known as the “Changzhou School”. For a summary introduction see B. A. Elman,
Classicism, Politics, and Kinship, pp. xxv - xxx and 1-7.
42
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Academy. The persecutions convinced most intellectuals that the time for a more
active role in the political life of the empire had come. Gradually the literati of the late
Ming took recourse to the New Text (jinwen ) interpretation of Confucius as
the unenthroned, enlightened ruler (suwang ), by re-evaluating the ethical
implications of the Song tradition.45 For the reformers of the nineteenth century, this
would provide an ideological platform for actively pursuing institutional reform.46
New Text criticism was also directed against the pervasive influence of Buddhism,
ever since the Latter Han (25 - 220 AD), but in particular against the absorption of
Buddhist mysticism by Tang and Song Confucianism and by the early Ming school of
Wang Yangming. Already during the last few decades of the Ming period, Gu
Xiancheng(1550-1612) had criticised the metaphysical and populist
components of Ming syncretism.47 After the transition to Qing rule, dispelling
mysticism became part of the general aim of “learning truth from facts” (shishi qiushi
). “Facts” were to be derived first and foremost through philological
research based on authentic Confucian sources. The closely related School of
Evidential Scholarship (Kaozhengxue ), however, also encouraged the
pursuit of other factual knowledge, such as the study of history and geography,
45
The crucial tenet of the New Text school was that the Confucian tradition from the period of the
Wang Mang  interregnum (9-25 AD) onwards had been based on corrupted sources. New Text
scholars therefore embarked on a reconstruction of Former Han (207 BC - 9 AD) Confucianism based
on the Gongyang commentaries (Gongyang zhuan ) of the Spring and Autumn Annals
(Chunqiu ) as the sole intact source from the Former Han. For this reason, New Text scholarship
was also referred to as [Former] “Han Learning” (hanxue ). See Benjamin Elman, From
Philosophy to Philology - Intellectual and Social Aspects of Change in Late Imperial China,
Cambridge / Massachusetts and London: Council on East Asian Studies (Harvard University) and
Harvard University Press 1984, pp. 22-26.
46 Ibidem, p. 23. Elman’s characterisation of jinwen as an “undercurrent” implies that the new
movement remained relatively marginal during the eighteenth century.
47 Liang Qichao, Intellectual Trends, pp. 33-34 and B. A. Elman, Classicism, Politics, and Kinship, p.
177.
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astronomy and mathematics, music, archaeology (bronze inscriptions) and of the
observation of nature.48
Some seventy years after Gu Xiancheng’s death, Gu Yanwu (16131682) would reach the condemnatory verdict that Ming scholars “pack[ed] books
away to avoid reading and drifted about conversing aimlessly.”49 Another great
representative of late Ming Han Learning, Wang Fuzhi (1619-1692), also
attempted to reinvigorate Confucianism by eradicating additions which had corrupted
Song and early Ming scholarship.50 Wang Fuzhi, formulated his ideas while in
voluntary banishment, following the conquest of the Ming empire. Yan Ruoju’s
(1636-1704) examination of ancient forgeries propelled an interest in
studying authentic classical texts, as passed on in the commentaries of the Han period,
while the writings of Hu Wei  (1633-1714) encouraged a more sceptical
attitude towards mysticism.51 Gu Yanwu, Yan Ruoju and Hu Wei broke the mould for
a new type of orthodoxy, which soon developed into distinct philosophical schools.52
In their zeal for textual authenticity, Qing scholars of the second generation, such as
Hui Dong (1697-1758) and his junior Dai Zhen  (1724-1777), gave
48
For a detailed discussion on the Kaozheng movement, see B. Elman, From Philosophy to Philology,
pp. 39-85, and also Liang Qichao, Intellectual Trends, pp. 67-68. The literal translation as “School of
Scrutinising and Proving” (for Kaozhengxue ) follows a suggestion by Prof. T. Barrett.
49 ibidem, p. 22 - quoting Quan Zuwang , Tinglin xiansheng shendaobiao yin
 (“Foreword in the epitaph on Gu Yanwu’s Grave”).
50 Ibidem, pp. 38-40.
51 - though not towards unambiguous scepticism. As Richard Smith informs us, “Though often the butt
of scholarly joke, fortune telling was ubiquitous”. See Richard Joseph Smith, Fortune Tellers and
Philosophers: Divination in Traditional Chinese Society, Boulder and London: Westview Press 1992,
p. 43.
52 Liang Qichao divided the philosophical landscape of the early Qing into three movements: the school
of ‘knowledge derived from daily practice’, represented by Yan Yuan (1635-1704), Li Gong
(1659-1746) and Liu Xianting  (1648-1695); a second school dominated by Huang
Zongxi (1610-1695) and Wan Sitong (1638-1702); finally a third school
emphasising the importance of science (i.e. astronomy and mathematics), as propagated by Wang
Xichan  (1628-1682) and Mei Wending (1633-1721). In particular the second of
these schools continued to develop into traditions of own right, formulated by intellectuals such as Gu
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priority to philological knowledge before all other rational pursuits.53 The New Text
movement continued to advocate imperial rulership based on justice and on the
scholarly advice of the literati throughout the early period of the Qing. Whereas
emperors from Shunzhi to Qianlong would usually respect the opinion of scholarofficialdom, they tended to rule in absolute style. This pattern was challenged for the
first time at the close of the eighteenth century, in September 1799, when Han
Learning literatus Hong Liangji remonstrated passionately against the
influence at court of the Manchu aristocrat Heshen .54 Heshen had enraged the
scholar-officials of the Qianlong period, due to his steadily increasing influence over
the emperor’s decisions - a perceived parallel to the pernicious role of Wei Zhongxian
almost two centuries earlier. The eventual Jiaqing emperor’s public apology for
exiling the remonstrating Hong Liangji marked the definitive end of Qing absolutism,
the gradual waning of imperial might after the Qianlong period and the first shoots of
the reform movement that would come to dominate the politico-philosophical scene
during the late nineteenth century.55
Whereas the syncretic, populist scholar officials of the Ming had attempted to
instil into the rural masses the basic tenets of Confucian morality through public
lectures and the distribution of edifying literature (shanshu ), the Qing literati
Zuyu  (1631-1692), Quan Zuwang (1705-1755) and Zhang Xuecheng
(1738-1801). See Liang Qichao, Intellectual Trends, pp. 24-45.
53 Ibidem, pp. 51-54 and 54-62, respectively. This fixation with philology eventually became Evidential
Scholarship’s own undoing. Utilising the very techniques postulated by the school, Liu Fenglu
 (1776-1829) embarked on a frontal attack against perceived misinterpretations of the
classics, epitomised by Liu’s analysis of the Gongyang commentary - the symbol of resistance to early
Qing orthodoxy. For more information on the New Text School during the late Qing see Liang Qichao,
Intellectual Trends, pp. 88-91.
54 The episode has been analysed in depth in David S. Nivison, “Ho-shen and his Accusers: Ideology
and Political Behaviour in the Eighteenth Century”, in: idem and Arthur F. Wright, Confucianism in
Action, Stanford: Stanford University Press 1959, pp. 209-243.
55 See B. A. Elman, Classicism, Politics, and Kinship, pp. 284-287, and David S. Nivison, “Ho-shen
and his Accusers”, pp. 232-243.
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were convinced that the lectures had only rendered the peasantry more stubborn. The
required panacea was not more words but rulership through good moral example and
ritual practice.56 Concomitant with the emphasis on practised ritual (xili ), the
intellectual elite justified its claim to superiority by constructing ancestral links
between their clans and the rediscovered Han era, visualised through family shrines
and lineage halls.57 The claim to ancestral purity was in most cases an artificial
construct, aimed at obscuring the loss of kinship cohesion, which the
commercialisation of Ming society had wrought on the elite. In particular the practice
of adopting commoners - yinan , “Honorific Sons” - into gentry households
weakened the cohesion of many rural clans. Commercialisation also made it more
attractive to leave the ancestral homestead in order to be closer to their businesses in
the city. The consequences for Christianity were grave: On an intellectual plane, the
drive against heterodoxy drained support for religious beliefs among the elite, as being
beneath the dignity of scholar-officials.58 In their capacity as guardians of state and
society, vigilance was therefore expected against popular movements with religious
motivation. Gradually, even as philology questioned the basis of Confucian
“orthodoxy”, a new intellectual setting was provided for the anti-heresy campaigns of
56
The social isolation of the scholar officials and their postulated aim of encouraging society at large to
benefit from their devotion to learning can be regarded as one of the inherent contradictions in Qing
society - a situation which remained unchanged until the advent of the New Culture movement. For a
vivid description of the life-style and outlook of Qing literati, based on the personal experience of the
author, see Liang Qichao, Intellectual Trends, pp. 73-75.
57 A very detailed account of the changing mentality among rural literati from the late Ming to the end
of the eighteenth century can be found in Chow Kai-wing  in The Rise of Confucian
Ritualism in Late Imperial China: Ethics, Classics and Lineage Discourse, Stanford: Stanford
University Press 1994, pp. 15-21. See also Erik Zürcher, “A Complement to Confucianism: Christianity
and Orthodoxy in Late Ming China”, in: Huang Chun-chieh and Erik Zürcher (eds), Norms and the
State in China, Leiden: E. J. Brill 1993, p. 71 ff.
58 The last will of Yuan Mei  explicitly stated that no Buddhist funeral rites were to be
performed on the occasion of his burial. See Waley, Yuan Mei, p. 202. Though Yuan was no stranger to
the tenets of Buddhist thought, his correspondence with Buddhist friends reveal Yuan’s disinterest in
Buddhist metaphysicism - and in all attempts to convert this Confucian hedonist. Ibidem, pp. 78-82 and
144, as well as Ya and Han, Zhongguo wushenlun shi, pp. 819-823.
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the eighteenth century, which in due course would also affect the interaction between
the state and popular Christianity.59
59 In an attack against Buddhism during the Six Dynasties period, interestingly, the historian Zhao
Yiqing (1710?-1764?) made a reference to Catholicism, as being the second worst religion, in terms of
extravagance. See Timothy H. Barrett, “Ignorance and the Technology”, p. 24.
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4. Christianity and the Manchurian elite
Whereas scholar-officials vacillated between benign recognition and the
refutation of Christianity as an assault on orthodoxy, their new Manchurian overlords
saw themselves in a different situation. Having conquered the last vestiges of the Ming
empire in the late 1640s, the Manchu rulers swiftly established a dual rulership model,
which incorporated the elaborate bureaucratic traditions of the Ming, as well as
preserving the tribal hierarchies that existed within the Manchurian aristocracy.60
While the Qing state thus remained meritocratic in principle, the Manchurian elite was
assigned to an institutional habitat which was intended to protect the numerically
insignificant Manchurians from eventual assimilation. The Manchu emperors faced a
tightrope course of trying to embrace the advantages of Han civilisation without
abandoning the cultural (and even ethnic) integrity of the Manchurian people. This
was to be achieved by the strict implementation of rules which made it difficult theoretically impossible - for Manchurians to intermarry with the Han, to adopt Han
codes of dress or hair style,61 to bind the female foot, and to follow the “superstitious”
traditions of the Han. Following an earlier perception of Christianity as a foreign (i.e.
non-threatenting) religious tradition, the attitudes among Manchurian noblemen
towards the close of the seventeenth century began to change: Christianity had by now
become a religion popular among the Han; adherence to the Christian cult was hence
conducive to further assimilation into Han culture. Against this background, the
60
Cf. S. L. Tikhvinski, La domination mandchoue en Chine, Moscow: Edition du Progrès 1982.
The Manchus had imposed the shaving of the forehead and the wearing of the plait for all men of
Han nationality following the conquest. This had been intended as a profound test of loyalty, since the
cutting of one’s bodily hair was included in the definition of “bodily mutilation”, prohibited to all sons
who wanted to remain pious to their ancestors. Frederic Wakeman referred to this act of symbolical
subjugation of male Han in his oeuvre The Great Enterprise - The Manchu Reconstruction of Imperial
Order in Seventeenth Century China, Berkeley: University of California Press 1985, pp. 363 ff. and
759 ff.
61
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prohibition of conversion among members of the Manchurian Banner elite was merely
an extension of the original policy of ethnic preservation.62
The “point of no return” in the official stance towards Christianity was crossed
during the late years of the Kangxi period, i.e. during the second decade of the
eighteenth century. Whereas the Kangxi emperor had professed a genuine interest63 in
the teachings of the missionaries residing at his court for most of his long years in
office, the increasingly negative attitude of the Papacy towards Jesuit accommodation
gradually led to his personal disappointment and irritation. The visitation by the papal
emissary Tournon64 - sent to Beijing in order to inform the missionaries at the
imperial court of the papal verdict against the toleration of ancestral worship in
Christian communities - became the cause for an imperial edict, and thus for the first
62
This is of course a rather simplistic account, which does not take into account that the Manchurians just like the Mongols - had been very welcoming to Buddhism, in its Tibetan expression. Elsewhere in
the empire, and with Shunzhi and Yongzheng as the main exceptions to the Manchurian preference of
Lamaism, Buddhism had been generally regarded as a thoroughly “Chinese” religion. Nor does it pay
justice to the efforts of the European missionaries to create translations into Manchurian and
Mongolian. Examples thereof are listed in Adrianus Dudink, “The Zikawei () Collection in
the Jesuit Theologate Library at Fujen  University (Taiwan): Background and Draft Catalogue”,
in: Sino-Western Cultural Relations Journal XVIII (1996), pp. 36 and 37. For insight into the special
position of Buddhism during the Yongzheng period, see Feng Erkang, Yongzheng zhuan, pp. 442-456.
63 The term “interest” should be read in the meaning of “scientific curiosity”, a fact which was only
recognised by the European missionaries after decades of misled hopes concerning a possible
conversion of the emperor, and of the Manchurian aristocracy in general. An edict commenting on the
trial of Yang Guangxian (KX 8/8, i.e. August/September 1669) provides interesting insight into the
relationship between Christian missionaries and Qing China. See Wang Zhichun (Zhao
Chunchen , editor), Qingchao rou yuan ji “ Records of Hospitality
towards Strangers in the Qing Dynasty”), Beijing: Zhonghua shuju  1989, pp. 18-24, for
a reprint of the anti-Christian refutation. An interesting parallel can be found in the reception of Jesuit
missionaries by Akbar, paramount ruler of the (Muslim) Mogul dynasty in northern India. The
Christians’ message ultimately served as a further ingredient in Akbar’s increasingly syncretic
interpretation of Islam. To their disappointment, the missionaries thus found themselves in the role of
“cultural envoys” - a role they shared with their confrères at the Kangxi court one hundred years later.
For more information on the Indian mission, see John Correia-Afonso, The Jesuits in India (15421773), Anand: Gujarat Shaitya Prakash 1997, pp. 93-95 and 119 ff.
64 Charles Thomas Maillard de Tournon stayed as Apostolic Visitor to the East Indies in China between
1705 and 1710. See the - not unbiased - account by Francisco Gonzales de San Pedro, Relation de la
nouvelle persecution de la Chine jusqu'à la mort du Cardinal de Tournon, Paris 1714, for Tournon's
protests at the Kangxi court (pp. 43-45) and for the emperor’s frosty response (pp. 96-102). For a
biographical introduction, see Robert Charles Jenkins, The Jesuits in China and the Legation of
Cardinal de Tournon, etc, London: D. Nutt 1894 and F. A. Rouleau, “Maillard de Tournon, Papal
Legate at the Court of Peking - The First Imperial Audience (31 December 1705)”, in: Archivum
Historicum Societatis Jesu XXXI (1962), pp. 264-323.
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officially sanctioned persecution in many decades.65 The Manchurian emperor, who
took great delight in studying and promoting the depths of Han culture, chided the
irreverent Tournon for deciding on matters which he, the European alien, could not
comprehend in the least. The ensuing repercussions are more relevant because of their
symbolic nature, rather than due to their severity: Individual reprisals were intended as
a “warning shot” to missionary orders ready to comply with the Vatican’s new policy
on the ancestor rites.66 The new imperial policy, however symbolical, nevertheless led
to a gradual deterioration between those members of the Manchurian elite who were
intent on preserving their perceived cultural - and therefore also religious - heritage,
and the Manchurian families who were loth to betray their European teachers. The
latter included sections of the imperial family structure, in particular the influential
Sunu clan, whose younger members were already participating in the violent contest
for the succession of Kangxi. Following the enthronement of the Yongzheng emperor
(1722), the vanquished Christian clan faced the wrath of the new ruler. Yinsi
and Yintang , two of the new emperor’s rivals in the race for
succession, stood accused of “plotting” (jiedang ) against the empire’s
leadership.67 To follow the alien teachings, the Yongzheng leadership deduced, was
65
The increasing sense of irritation is easily visible from the documents recording the conversation (i.e.
confrontations) between Tournon, the Jesuits and the Kangxi emperor. See D. Sure and R. Noll, 100
Roman Documents concerning the Chinese Rites Controversy (1645-1941), San Francisco: Ricci
Institute / University of San Francisco 1992. His laments are represented in his Letter of the Cardinal of
Tournon ... written ... to ... the Bishop of Conon, to Comfort him in the Prison in which he was confined
... at Pekin under the custody of the Jesuits, 1709 [copy held at the British Library].
66 Evident from contemporary missionary correspondence, such as the diary preserved in the Vatican
Library as Lat. Vat. 12849. The Brevis narratio itineris ex Italia usque ad Chinam was compiled by
Carlo a Castorano and fellow Franciscan missionaries, and gives a detailed account of life in the early
eighteenth century Shandong mission. Interestingly, all reported persecutiones seem, in fact, to have
been isolated instances of reprisals against Christian individuals.
67 See the document reprinted in Wenxian congbian (“Systematic compilation of
documentary sources”), volume I, pp. 1-12: “Yinsi yintang an ” (“The case against
Yinsi and Yintang”), dated YZ 4/5/2, i.e. 1 June 1726. See also Josephus Suarez, S.J., “Nachrichten aus
China - Leben und Sterben ... des zwölfften Sunischen Printzen Josephi”, 1728 [kept at the British
Library].
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equal to being disloyal to the Qing state - a grave accusation against any leading
politician. The historical conditions were not yet sufficiently ominous to warrant a
blanket exclusion of Europeans from the Qing empire. However, due to the close
affiliation between the rebellious clan and their Western tutors, foreign missionaries
were now seen as an additional factor of instability.68 Unrepentant Christians
belonging to the Manchurian Banners were certain to be ostracised from the
aristocratic establishment, and faced the likelihood of being deported to the Yili
region, where they would serve primitive northern tribes as slaves.69 Similar legal
threats certainly existed against Christian officials of Han origin, although the severity
of the punishment did not attain the levels implemented against Manchurian “traitors”.
Manchu nationals were hence denied an important cultural link which would have
furthered their integration into the surrounding host society.
A hundred years later, the blanket ban on Christian affiliation had produced an
unexpected outcome: In spite of the severe penalties which awaited Manchurians who
embraced Christianity, the number of Christians had increased by a substantial
margin, in particular in the capital Beijing. Even in the Manchurian heartland, cities
such as Chengde  and Jin had, by the close of the eighteenth century,
68
The confessions of Yintang produced evidence of involvement by Westerners, evidenced by letters
bearing Latin and Cyrillic (xiang eluosu de zi , i.e. “characters resembling
Russian script”, but possibly Greek?) script: “When Yintang was questioned as to why the letter to his
son [allegedly containing evidence of a plot to murder Yongzheng], was all in Western script, [it was
stated that] already his secretary Tong Bao had witnessed that he had been taught these Western
characters by you [i.e. Yintang]. It goes without saying that he used to be in the company of one of your
Westerners”
(

). See Wenxian congbian, “The Case against Yinsi and Yintang”, p. 3. The involvement of
Westerners is also referred to on p. 9.
69 In official parlance derogatorily referred to as “those kow-towing to the Lord of Heaven” (gei
tianzhu ketou de ) - instead of bowing to legitimate sources of authority. Cf.
ibidem, p. 5.
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developed sizeable Christian communities.70 The fallout of the Adeodato affair of
1805, which caused entire networks of Han Chinese, Manchurian and European
Christians to be uncovered, produced several high-ranking victims from among the
Manchurian Banners. A public announcement by the Jiaqing emperor denounced
Manchurian Christians as “unworthy to be regarded as men”, and ordered them to be
enslaved, sent to Yili for hard labour and forever to be excised out of the name
registers of the Manchurian aristocracy.71 The imperial decree of the year 1811
reinforced the Yongzheng edict, threatenting even stricter punishment for this
unpardonable act, in addition to the immediate loss of their employment and
government stipends. Militiamen from the Banners were furthermore entitled to enter
the homes of the “traitors” in order to search for incriminating evidence.72
Throughout the mid-Qing period, contacts between Manchurian and Han
Bannermen was frequently increased through common religious practice. “Venerable
Associations” (laohui ) providing for the pilgrims and “Pilgrimage
Associations” (shenghui ) setting up stelae along pilgrimage routes bore
witness to the extent of assimilation experienced by Manchurians in Qing society.73
70
... as well as Buddhist movements such as the One Incense-Stick and Sceptre (Yizhuxiang ruyihui
) or the Original Condition of Chaos and Red Yang (Hunyuan hongyanghui
). See de Groot, Sectarianism and Religious Persecution, pp. 307-308. Note that
“Red” (hong) Yang  is homophonous with “Vast” (hong) Yang , and that the founder of
the Vast Yang teaching Han Taihu  had the honorific title “Patriarch of the Origin in
Creative Chaos” (Hunyuanzu ). See Daniel Overmyer, Precious Volumes: An Introduction
to Chinese Sectarian Scriptures from the 16th and 17th centuries, Cambridge / Massachusetts: Harvard
University Press 1999, p. 321 (quoting R. H. C. Shek, “Religion and Society in Late Ming”, pp. 276287). Similar observations are made in de Groot, Sectarianism and Religious Persecution, p. 478 on the
early nineteenth century tendency among Mongolian bannermen to join religious groupings advocating
vegetarianism (zhaimen ).
71 Many of the Manchurians involved were in fact women. Cf. the report by the Propaganda Fide, kept
at their archives as SOCP, Indie Orientali, 1817, ff. 33-34. The document is a summary of the state of
the mission, based on the missionary correspondence received from China during the first two decades
of the nineteenth century.
72 Ibidem, ff. 32-33, referring to the “Ten Articles” against Christianity in the imperial capital. The
Adeodato affair is analysed in greater depth on folium 35.
73 See Susan Naquin, “The Peking Pilgrimage to Miao-feng Shan: Religious Organizations and Sacred
Site”, in: Susan Naquin and Chü-fang Yü (eds), Pilgrims and Sacred Sites, p. 342.
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This general trend can also be observed with regard to Christianity, at least for the
nineteenth century.74 In a report on the state of the China mission in the wake of the
Opium War, we are in fact informed that Christianity was particularly popular
amongst the members of the non-Han minorities, including the “princes” of
Manchurian origin.75 By then, however, the aim of successfully resisting assimilation
had already become elusive, and the macro-political situation had undergone an
irreversible transformation.
Evident as late as in 1838 from the legal proceedings against the Manchurian aristocrat Tusi 
(alias Tusheng’a ) and his son. See de Groot, Sectarianism and Religious Persecution, p.
525.
75 See Richard Ball, Christianity in China - State and Work of the Native Evangelists contained in a
Series of Tracts, London: Partridge and Oakey 1850, p. 13 ff. (Tract no. 3, first printed in Hong Kong,
in March 1849), as well as E. Huc, Souvenirs of a Journey, vol. I, p. 147. We should keep in mind that
such observations may very well have been aimed at the missionary home audiences, in order to elicit
continuing support. The sources used for this thesis, however, seem to confirm that throughout the
century of prohibition Manchurian bannermen were to be found among the ranks of China’s Christians.
74
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Part II - Late imperial Christianity: Popular cult or alien creed?
In the introductory first part we analysed the historical parameters for the
inculturation of Christianity, from its Mediterranean roots to its entry into the Chinese
sphere. The aim of the following part will be to analyse the reception of Christianity
into the religious landscape of late imperial China, as well as to provide concrete
examples of its inculturation. The most immediate difference between both parts is to
be found in agency: Whereas during Part I the focus was on the role of the Jesuit
missionaries and the reaction of the Chinese elite, the emphasis will now shift to the
Christian commoner. This is partly due to the fact that during the eighteenth century,
the influence of the Christian scholar-official elite weakened. More crucially,
however, the change in focus is intended to determine the nature of inculturation after
the Yongzheng edict: Who spearheaded the introduction of the new values into village
society? How were the central tenets of Christian doctrine interpreted by the local
congregations and which transformations did local traditions undergo after the
conversion of families to Christianity? On the other hand, one vital role remains
allocated to the literati elite, and to the European missionary orders, namely by giving
a “voice” to villagers who, at best, were only partially literate.1
1
Robert Chard has demonstrated the influence of elite literature on (printed expressions) of popular
religious life. See his article “Rituals and Scriptures of the Stove Cult”, in: David Johnson (ed.), Ritual
and Scripture in Chinese Popular Religion, - Five Studies, Berkeley: Chinese Popular Culture Project
1995, pp. 3-54, in particular p. 15 (on the use of paper scrolls).
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Chapter 4:
Filial sons and a world of demons
1. Controversial Rites: Ancestral tablets and auspicious inscriptions
Despite its reputation as the Golden Century of the late imperial period,2 the
eighteenth century also harboured the seeds of the socio-political upheavals of the
nineteenth century. Among other factors, bad weather conditions during the first half
of the Qianlong period caused considerable hardship to the common people, and
added directly to the appeal of secret societies among the peasantry. Farmers,
boatpullers, and other sources of cheap labour who - for various reasons - found
themselves without a reliable source of income, were forced to abandon their parental
homes (and often the idea of setting up a home of their own) in order to become part
of the migratory gravitation towards the economic abundance in the east of the
empire. Confucian social morality put a strong emphasis on the relationship between
Elder and Younger Brothers, and opposed the idea of separation from the family unit
and also against a mendicant life style. In order to compensate for the loss of family
connections, and also for the eventuality of having to die without offspring, many of
the uprooted joined brotherhood associations as “artificial families” - of great
importance both in spiritual terms (ancestral worship), as well as socially (old-age
security).3 The veneration of - surrogate - ancestral ties even provided a factor for
cohesion with the educated elite, the very class most threatened by the popular
2
The concept of the Pax Manchurica as a time of universal prosperity and peace within the empire was
critically examined during the course of a conference outside Beijing in June 1995, organised by the
Research Centre on Qing History, People’s University . For
a detailed account of the mid-Qing era see also Dai Yi , Qianlong ji qi
shidai( “Qianlong and his times”), Beijing: Zhongguo renmin daxue chubanshe
1992.
3 See Patricia Ebrey, Confucianism and Family Rituals in Imperial China, Princeton: Princeton
University Press 1991 on commonly accepted concepts of morality and ritual during the late imperial
period. On the phenomenon of surrogate family units, see Qin Baoqi, Zhongguo dixia shehui, pp. 188189 and 200.
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movements.4 During the eighteenth century, popular Buddhist movements imbued
with Confucian patterns of social morality - such as the Luojiao 5 and the
Huangtiandao 6- provided solace and, literally, a mission in life for
migrants separated from their village homes. Filial piety and respect for the
hierarchies within the family were thus also core values of popular religious
movements and were bound to influence the religious practice of China’s Christian
communities.7
One of the most common statements in memorials dealing with Christianity is
that the members of the forbidden cult “chanted the sutras” (songjing ), or
4
See Myron L. Cohen, “Souls and Salvation: Conflicting Themes in Chinese Popular Religion”, in:
James L. Watson and Evelyn S. Rawski, Death Ritual in Late Imperial and Modern China, Berkeley,
Los Angeles and London: University of California Press 1988, p. 199, as well as Claudius Müller, Wege
der Götter und Menschen: Religionen im traditionellen China, Berlin: Reimer 1989, p. 15. See also
Stevan Harrell, "The Concept of Soul in Chinese Folk Religion", in: Journal of Asian Studies
XXXVIII-3 (May 1979), pp. 519-528. The appeal of heterodox movements for young, uprooted men
working along the empire’s waterways is dealt with in David E. Kelley, “Temples and Tribute Fleets:
The Luo Sect and Boatmen’s Associations in the Eighteenth Century”, in: Modern China VIII-3 (July
1982), pp. 361-391.
5 Luo Qing  (1443-1527), founder of the Non-Activism cult (Wuweijiao ), later
known as the “Luo cult” (Luojiao ). Like other cults too, Luojiao was known under a variety of
names (such as Laoguanzhai , Dashengjiao , Dachengjiao ,
Sanshengjiao , Luojiao-longhuahui ) in various parts of China’s southeast during the eighteenth century. Luo Qing had left his parental home in Shandong at an early age,
first to work as a soldier, then to enter monastic life. His baojuan writings, in particular Tanshi wuwei
juan  (“Book of non-activism in lamentation for the world”, published 1509)
stressed the importance of Confucian family values. See D. Overmyer, Precious Volumes, pp. 106-112
and 303-304 (Appendix G, example 2), in particular the commentary concerning duties towards parents
and state officials on p. 302. On the life and work of Luo Qing, see idem, “Boatmen and Buddhas: The
Lo Chiao in Ming Dynasty China”, in: History of Religions, XVII/3-4 (February/March 1978), p. 292
and also his Precious Volumes, pp. 93-135. For a typology of baojuan, see R. H. C. Shek, “Religion and
Society”, chapter VII, in particular pp. 155-157 and 213-218. Susan Naquin regards Luo Qing as the
earliest ancestor of the White Lotus religion [after 1500]. See S. Naquin “Transmission of White Lotus
Sectarianism”, p. 256, note 2.
6 The Yellow Heaven sutras demanded that all cult members look after their own livelihood while also
striving to respect their parents, families and neighbours. For more details see Hou Jie and Fan Lizhu,
Zhongguo minzhong zongjiao yishi pp. 61-62, as well as Ma Xisha and Han Bingfang, Zhongguo
minjian zongjiaoshi, p. 406, who suggest that the Way of Yellow Heaven (Huangtiandao )
is an alternative denomination for the Great Way of Imperial Heaven (Huangtian dadao
) - note the homophony of huang, in (“yellow”) and (“imperial”). Yellow is of
course also the colour symbolising imperial authority. See D. Overmyer, Precious Volumes, pp. 343351 for more examples of Yellow Heaven baojuan.
7 Such expressions of common morality had long since become an all-pervasive element of religious
life in China. See C. K. Yang, Religion in Chinese Society, pp. 29-43 and - on the role of “diffused
religion” - pp. 296-300.
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simply read “heretical scriptures” (xieshu ), in similar fashion to Buddhist
cults.8 Were the eighteenth century Christians products of the same tendencies that
engendered the above-mentioned fraternities? Christian communities often professed
their faith by altering or dispensing with the traditional couplet-scrolls of auspicious
characters on their doors (menshen duilian ). This can be interpreted as
a mild form of non-conformist behaviour, setting Christian households apart from
their pagan neighbours without putting themselves into direct peril. Such instructions
are documented in a letter sent by the Beijing-based missionary Pedrini to the
Propaganda Fide in Rome. The letter, dated 2-11-1736, mentions a pamphlet
(libellum) by Father Mailla which described exceptional ways of professing one’s
faith during times of persecution. The faithful were supposed to repeat the following
words (in Chinese): “I am a Christian ... In these troubled times I shall not enter a
church. At home I shall not keep a Holy Image, I shall not preach in public and not
affix door scrolls with the sacred names of Jesus and Mary. I, this insignificant
servant, truly am a Christian.”9
Overt expressions of affiliation to Christian circles, such as signboards (paiwei
) and scrolls bearing Christian texts are also documented.10 Another distinctive
8
Which means that the Christians’ chanting may have been accompanied by simple ritual music and
offerings of tea and fruit. See Susan Naquin, “Transmission of White Lotus Sectarianism”, pp. 262-263.
Chanting was also commonplace in Daoist rites. The Ba-xian archives in Sichuan contain a local court
case against a certain Zhang Junde  chanting excerpts from the North Star Sutra (Beidou jing
) while performing a “spirit dance” (tiao shen ). See the printed files compiled in Baxian Archives , Part V, Section 13 “Christianity and Heresy” (yangjiao, xiejiao ), p. 239: “Arrest of a shaman engaged in spirit dancing, QL 36/7 [Aug./Sept. 1771]”
.
9 Ego sum Christianus.... In hoc temporis flera non ingredam ecclesiam. Domi non colam Sanctam
Imaginem, non congregatio multitudinem ad recitandas precere, ad portam domus non affigam
Sanctum Signum nomina Jesu et Mariae. Ego servulus vero sum Christianus ... The original Chinese
had been translated into Latin by the author Pedrini. APF, SC, “Cina”, 1737-1740, folium 20.
10 See the memorial of 1813 by the official Qin Jie. Another memorial on a rural Christianity from 1806
(also FHA, original document 408, scroll 9258) confirms that Christians were able to display their faith
more visibly in times of non-acute prohibition. Dehergne refers to Christian households at the beginning
of the eighteenth century who decorated their doorposts with scrolls bearing the names of Mary and
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feature was the practice of attaching symbols above the doors of Christian
households.11 In times of persecution, however, such expressions of communal
affiliation were treated as sufficient evidence of “heresy”, exposing the Christians to
the full severity of the potential consequences. Thus we learn, in the descriptions of
Matteo Ripa, of the reprisals against local converts in the Shandong district of
Feicheng xian  which occurred around the year 1714. The prefect of Jinan
demanded that the local Christians remove all insignia of their heterodox affiliation
from the door posts, replacing them with the conventional menshen. Those Christians
who refused to apostatise and to remove the offensive character scrolls were given the
usual thirty lashings with the bamboo cane, or forced into the cangue. Though not
planned as annihilation campaigns, the punishment could be sufficiently harsh to
inflict injuries leading to death.12
Emmanuele Conforti dedicated several longer passages towards the end of his
report as Apostolic Visitor to the Chinese northwest to the problem of attaching
menshen. He correctly identified the religious origin of the custom, i.e. as the
symbolic representation of two warrior spirits from popular Buddhism, one depicted
with a red, the other with a black face. And just as the Christians in European
Jesus; see Joseph Dehergne “La Mission de Pékin à la veille de la condamnation des rites”, in: Neue
Zeitschrift für Missionswissenschaft, IX (1953), pp. 91-108, p. 317.
11 Reported by contemporaries as having the shape of a “water turtle” (bie ). See Dudink, “The
Sheng-ch’ao tso-p’i”, p. 125, note 89 on a passage in the Zuopi. Dudink “wonders” correctly whether
the water creature may have symbolised the monogram for “” (“Jesus Christ, Son of
God, Redeemer”), used by Christians throughout the pre-Christian Roman empire.
12 Cf. the letter by Carlo da Castorano to Matteo Ripa in Michele Fatica (ed.), Matteo Ripa, Giornale
(1705-1724) - Testo critico, note e appendice documentaria di Michele Fatica, Vol. II (1711-1716),
Napoli: IUO 1996, pp. 346. The passage in the original: ... comminciò il mandarino a fare rinegare li
christiani e che radessero li santi nomi dalle lor porte, ponendovi in lor luogo idoletti mon xin
[], e che non voleva ciò fare, né rinegare la fede, li faceva bastonare sin a tanto che lo
ubbidissero, e nel bastonarli diceva l’or: ‘Dove sta adesso il Fan ciao sue [, i.e. the local
head of the Christianity, here referring to the Jesuit Girolamo Franchi], venga e vi liberi dalle mie mani.
The final remark, by the local official, may serve as a early example of competition for tangible
political influence at the local level between foreign priests and Chinese officials. This rivalry returned
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antiquity had classified the Janus cult as superstitious, the Visitor left no doubt of his
own opinion.13 But why was the use of this superstitious rudiment so widespread
among Christians two to three generations following conversion? The question was
taken one step further when Conforti observed that even outright pagan elements, such
as auspicious characters and symbols (the bagua ) painted on paper or fabric
and attached to the door frame and roof beams, were commonly used in Christian
families.14 During the persecution following the discovery of “subversive materials”
in the luggage of the missionary Adeodato in 1805, the imperial administration
ordered the Christians in the imperial capital to erase all signs (paitie ) attached
to homes and also to their churches. The move was intended to eradicate any sense of
legitimacy for places of Christian worship. Of the four churches in Beijing, the
inscriptions of the Southern Cathedral (Nantang ) and of its northern
equivalent Beitang  were most “dangerous” in this regard, since the portals of
both churches bore imperial approvals from the Kangxi period.15 Seen from a popular
angle, the same inscriptions may have been regarded as possessing the same protective
powers as domestic menshen. Against this background, both the Chinese state as well
to prominence in the nineteenth century, with the introduction of extraterritoriality in the wake of the
Opium Wars and the subsequent extension of missionary rights.
13 Cf. Bernward Willeke, “The Report of the Apostolic Visitation of D. Emmanuele Conforti on the
Franciscan Missions in Shansi, Shensi and Kansu (1798)”, in: Archivum Franciscanum Historicum
LXXXIV-1/2 (1991), pp. 260-261.
14 See ibidem, p. 261. Here a look at similar customs in “Christian Europe” is helpful, where
inscriptions bearing Christian symbols and messages replaced much older pagan ones. The Florianus
cult of the late mediaevum (“Saint Florian, protect our home, burn down the one of someone else”) is an
apt example of how anti-Christian thinking could become translated into vocabulary of popular
Christianity. The superstitious essence of this menshen is preserved even in its Christian clothing.
15 The paean to Christianity by the Kangxi emperor can still be read today. The Beitang bore the
simpler inscription “Approved by imperial edict as a church of the Lord of Heaven” ([zhi-jian]
tianzhutang [). The characters engraved into the portal of the Eastern Cathedral
(Dongtang ) read “True Origin of all Creation” (wanwu zhenyuan ), which
created an impression of both Christian and Confucian orthodoxy. More examples of Jesuit-Ruist
hybridity, can be found in the first chapter of Lionel M. Jensen, Manufacturing Confucianism. More
general insight into the persecution following the Adeodato affair can be found in a missionary report
kept at the APF as document SC, series III, Cina and Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, folium 400 V / R.
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as the Papacy should have been opposed to their display from the beginning - although
this would have caused the ire of the Jesuit court missionaries.
The problem of displaying symbols of spiritual significance became the central
issue of the so-called Rites Controversy, which vexed the China mission of the early
eighteenth century. Local Christians often obeyed the papal injunctions against such
“illicit rites” by eradicating the physical evidence of traditional Chinese rituals
altogether. The Vatican had ruled against the argument that the rites were a mere
extension of filial piety beyond the threshold of death, the original Confucian stance.16
In the interpretation of the greater populace, much deplored by the Confucian state
officials, the rites had taken on a spiritual dimension, adding ancestral souls to the
pantheon of worshipped deities. This interpretative dichotomy provided the
background for the papal bull ordering Chinese Christians to remove the ancestral
worship tablets, or to continue with the rite on the sole basis of filial respect.17 The
missionaries’ quest to differentiate between varying degrees of “superstition” inherent
in ancestral worship led to strained definitions as to which cults really deserved to be
regarded as mere expressions of “filial piety”, devoid of religious connotations.18
Missionary correspondence from the first decade of the nineteenth century reveals that
the literati of a city in Sichuan had received orders from their magistrate to erect
tablets in traditional fashion. In the view of the reporting missionary, it was not the
16
The main arguments of the “Rites Controversy” are summarised in an early eighteenth century
publication entitled Congregatio Sancti Officii Acta causae rituum seu ceremoniarum sinensium,
published in Venice by Antonio Bortoli in 1709. The documents are divided into four groups, airing the
arguments of both sides.
17 Missionary correspondence is full of arguments for or against attributing religious significance to the
rites. See for instance, the letter by the Franciscan Delgado (APF, SC, series III, 1806-1811, Cina e
Regni Adiacenti, ff. 145-148) commenting on the pressure to conform to Confucian tradition,
experienced by Christians wanting to participate in official examinations.
18 In the general imagination, the ancestors only survived as benevolent spirits in the underworld
precisely because their tablets were worshipped. Changing to a new belief that radically altered this
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inscription which was to be regarded as “superstitious”, but the colour of the tablet
(“tabella papyri flori coloris”). Whether the papyrus colour was seen as indicative of
the shades of sunlight used by Buddhist believers, or whether the yellowish hue
created a link with the Yellow Emperor or was simply meant to symbolise loyalty to
the imperial throne remains unstated.19 For the Christians who had heeded the
admonitions of the papacy to eradicate “superstitious” tablets, the magistrate’s decree
entailed the choice of peacefully continuing with their official careers or of a painful
inquisition at the hands of the yamen torturer.20
In vain defenders of the Jesuit approach to ancestral worship attempted to
demonstrate that the “Confucian” rites were devoid of any religious quality. Even
three generations following the papal verdict on the ancestor rites, the discrepancies in
interpretation remained. Conforti’s report on the state of the mission in Shanxi and
Shaanxi reveals that ancestral worship, i.e. the burning of incense and kow-towing in
front of the images of the defunct ancestors, was still wide-spread among the
Christians of late eighteenth century China.21 The problem, according to Conforti’s
report, was that in families which retained a considerable proportion of non-converts,
the practice was almost unavoidable. We also hear of Christians who had been forced
by the local magistrates to reintroduce the ancestral cult, by pain of torture or death. In
the case of a Christian family with the surname Fan, the pagan neighbours played
practice thus not only endangered the wellbeing of the ancestors but also had pernicious consequences
for the world of the living. See M. L. Cohen, “Souls and Salvation”, p. 201.
19 The case is cited as the second of a series of “doubts” (dubia) questioning the wisdom of the papal
decree against the continuation of ancestral worship in Christian households. The relevant passage reads
as follows: Est unus Mandarinus e civitate Kioung tehoon, qui iussit omnibus christianis sui districtis
erigerent tabellam papyri flori coloris, in qua est una inscriptio adjuncta, qua non est superstitiosa,
sed color papyri est.... (“An official in the municipality of Kioung tehoon [Sichuan, yet to be identified]
ordered all Christians of his district to erect tablets in the colour of the papyrus flower, together with an
inscription which in itself is not superstitious, although the papyrus colour is”). See APF document
SOCP, Indie Orientali, 1806-1811, folium 22.
20 Ibidem, ff. 22-23
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their part, by taking advantage of the absence of the family head in order to reinstate
the customary tablets on the first day of the Lunar new year. But at times, even in
clans with a relatively homogenous Christian composition, the clan elder
(“caputfamilias”) would hold a watchful eye over the observation of the rite - whether
he happened to be a Christian or not. Any intervention by the European or Chinese
outsider, i.e. a visiting missionary, only served to further discord within the family
unit, in particular in the families of the literati where Confucian traditions prevailed
almost unchallenged.22 A letter sent around the year 1805 by Father Delgado (OP),
Vicar Apostolic of Tunking, bears witness to the difficulties remaining Christians
within the scholar-official elite experienced - in particular when faced with
accomplishing the civil service examinations.23 The core of the problem was (still) the
quality of the honorific term sheng , used in conjunction with the person of
Confucius. Christian purists would recoil from using the term in its spiritual meaning
of “holy” or “sacred”,24 while the rendering preferred by the accommodationists,
“sage” or “wise”, was too neutral for most. Delgado’s laconic reasoning in pleading
for tolerance was simple: “In confirmation of the great mind Navarette, quoting two
Christian literati in conversation: ‘There are many in the empire who can be referred
to as sheng, but really nobody who can be called a saint.’”25 In a final bid to prevent a
21
See B. Willeke, “The Report of the Apostolic Visitation”, p. 258 ff.
Ibidem , pp. 254-257.
23 This was a problem which had already become apparent during the early stages of the Rites
Controversy. Maillard de Tournon’s position was to exclude all Christian candidates from the
sacraments who refused to abandon their traditional rituals honouring Confucius and the ancestors. See
F. Margiotti, Il cattolicismo nello Shansi, p. 448.
24 The final verdict reasoned that any statement indicating that the historical Confucius was a man of
unlimited virtue could be interpreted as implying that he was perfect, without fault (absque ulla
erroris). See the explanations from the year 1806 by the Vicar Apostolic of Sichuan, Cardinal Dufresse,
preserved as APF file SC, series III, Cina e Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, ff. 202-206.
25 In confirmationem laudatus Ill.mus Navarette refert verba duorum Litteratorum christianorum,
quorum unus affirmabat: Homines xing imperium sinicum multo habuisse; sanctos vere nullos. Quoted
from the letter by F. Delgado, APF, SC, series III, Cina and Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, ff. 145-148
(in particular folium 145 R and V). See also the Englished version of Navarette’s report, filed at the
22
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schism between the China mission and the Vatican, some missionaries produced
ancestral tablets endowed with a Christian message. The inscription composed by the
Franciscan missionary and bishop of Beijing Bernardino della Chiesa (Yi Daren
) reflects the extent to which the European missionaries went in order to
accommodate traditional beliefs antedating the entry of Christianity.26 The tablet
produced after the papal decree of 1704 read:
True ruler over all creation, Heaven and Earth; who made Heaven to give
us cover, and the earth in order to sustain us, and everything pertaining to
these, given to mankind to our benefit. God intended that all those who are
in this world respect him with all their heart, that they lead a meritorious
life and shun evil in order to attain an eternally joyful life. Of all the mercy
bestowed by the true ruler on all human beings nothing surpasses one’s
parents; when they leave this world, their merits and transgressions follow
suit, and regardless of whether they rise [to Heaven] or descend [into
Hell], they will never come back home. Pious sons and compassionate
grandsons erect tablets or statues not because the [parental] spirit rest in
them, but in order to cultivate their memory. Let us revere the true ruler of
all that is twixt Heaven and Earth, and let us piously respect ancestors and
parents.27
British Library: D. F. Navarette, “An Account of the Empire of China Historical, Political, Moral and
Religious, ...”, London: Churchill 1732.
26 This example of “cultural hybridity” corresponds with the designation Lionel Jensen assigned to the
Jesuits resident at the imperial court. Whether the missionaries’ accommodation was genuine to the
marrow or contained elements of wanting to impress the scholar-official elite is a different matter. Cf.
Lionel M. Jensen, Manufacturing Confucianism, p. 80 ff.
27 Michele Fatica (ed.), Matteo Ripa, Giornale (1705-1724), Vol. II (1711-1716), pp. 366 - 369. The
original, belonging to the former Hankou archives, has the following wording:
“



” (followed by the names of
father and mother, as well as their life dates). The original is complemented in the diary of Matteo Ripa
by his own translation into colloquial Italian and by the Latin rendering as translated by Carlo Orazi di
Castorano. See ibidem, pp. 368-369.
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The outcome of the Rites Controversy is well documented: The binding ruling
by Pope Benedict XIV had to be accepted by all Catholic priests in China, both
Propaganda and padroado missionaries, who were obliged to swear solemnly not to
tolerate “pagan rites” in their congregations.28 China’s Christians, however, reacted to
the bull in different ways. Many congregations retained the cult, in varying degrees of
compliance. Most frequently, however, Christians followed the papal decree of 1714
by removing the tablets altogether. One such example is documented in the
confessions of officers belonging to the Han-Chinese Blue Banner. The memorial,
recording their plea for mercy on grounds of rueful apostasy, states in unambiguous
terms that Christians were “not allowed to attach paper scrolls for the Hearth God
(Zaowang ), neither to sacrifice to our ancestors on the grave mound. This is an
indisputable rule of our religion”.29 The fact that officials arrested Christians for
possessing Christian objects and character scrolls within the privacy of their homes
should be seen as an indicator that such displays were in more normal times tolerated
by the local authorities, thus conceding that Christianity had become a common
expression of popular religious life. It should finally be remembered that the precise
nature of ancestral worship varied considerably throughout China. In particular in the
northern provinces, a great number of literati had dispensed with the tablets altogether.
Under such circumstances, the Roman missionaries needed little effort in order to
28
The Formula Juramenti which had to be sworn and signed individually by all missionaries in China’s
bishoprics and vicariates apostolic, contained the uncompromising statement “never to tolerate that the
Chinese Rites and Ceremonies be practised by the Christians” (numquam patiar, ut Ritus ac
Ceremoniae Sinenses ... ab eisdem christianis ad praxim deduantur). Cf. APF, SC, series III, Cina e
Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, ff. 114 and 141.
29 FHA, scroll 9260, original number 498, sub-number 38, frames 756-757. The Chinese Christians’
revelations
are
renarrated
in
the
vernacular:

”
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explain the new policy of the Vatican concerning the ancestral rites. Missionaries
intent on preserving the custom may even have contributed by sowing confusion.30
2. Interaction with other religious movements
The use of ancestral tablets may be seen as one indicator of the extent to which
China’s Christians followed the patterns of local religious life. But elements of
popular religious life also entered Christianity through direct personal links with other
movements. This may have been particularly true of the “Dragon Flower Society”
(Longhuahui ), a development of the Pure Land tradition,31 which captured
the imagination of the peasantry mainly in the Lower Yangtse Delta.32 Its audience
comprised mainly members of the lower and middle peasantry, featuring a
comparatively high proportion of women, who attended religious gatherings which
were not segregated according to gender.33 The liturgical traditions of the Longhua
followers were colourful: Music and chanting accompanied rituals devoted to statues
with anthropomorphic features. To the religious villagefolk these statues were tangible
30
Dans les provinces du Nord, il y’a un très-grand nombre de gentils qui ne gardent point les tablettes
de leurs parents défunts. Quoted from Francisco Gonzales de San Pedro, Relation de la nouvelle
persecution de la Chine jusqu’à la mort du Cardinal de Tournon ..., p. 68.
31 The baojuan which lies at the heart of the Longhua tradition - the Gu-fo tianzhen kaozheng longhua
baojing  (“Dragon-flower precious scripture verified by the
ancient Buddha Tianzhen”), also simply known as the Longhua jing (“Dragonflower
Classic”) - refers to Longhua followers as adherents of the “Lotus school” (Lianzong ), without
the use of the adjective “White”. The author of the precious scroll, known as “Gong Chang” (,
the two radicals forming the common surname Zhang ), was revered as the incarnation of the
Tianzhen Buddha, who returned to the mortal world in order to gather and save all (Buddhist) sects in
the third Dragon Flower Assembly. See D. Overmyer, Precious Volumes, pp. 248-267; also R. H. C.
Shek, “Religion and Society”, pp. 176-189, for an analytical synopsis.
32 This is in any case the interpretation of J. J. M. de Groot, who refers to the movement as the LungHwa Sect. The term may be a translation from the Sanskrit nagapushpa, representing the holy tree
under which the Buddha of the Future is awaiting his time to descend to earth. The Longhua cult would
thus be a derivative of Maitreyanism.
33 Women played an important role in the preservation of religious traditions, not least because Qing
law treated female “heretics” more leniently than men: Whereas their menfolk were routinely arrested,
exiled or executed, women were often allowed to stay at home with their children. See Susan Naquin,
“Connections between Rebellions: Sect Family Networks in Qing China”, in: Modern China VIII-3
(July 1982), p. 354.
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representations of a hierarchy of superhuman beings which shadowed that of another
Maitrayan movement, the Xiantianjiao  (“Pre-Celestial Teaching”).34 While
their theological core was almost identical, the two could not have been more
dissimilar in ritual terms. The Longhua cult appealed to a popular audience
accustomed to elaborate and joyous celebrations, whereas the followers of the
Xiantian cult tended to practise in puritanical simplicity. The Xiantian flock
congregated in the homes of co-religionists, without any segregation of the sexes. To
escape from the Confucian guardians of orthodoxy, meetings took place secretly,
while a close teacher-disciple bond provided additional security. There were near to
no overt manifestations of this faith, which existed without shrines or temples or
statues. Instead of ritual music, the faithful would partake in a simple vegetarian meal
and in pious conversations. Recitals and the profession of the five fundamental
principles would usually complete a religious gathering. As an additional sign of their
Buddhist pledge to forsake the killing of animated beings, Xiantian followers would
release animals purchased from meat markets.35 Full of respect for the written word,
many believers also familiarised themselves with the pamphlets distributed by
Christian missionaries.36
Both movements were allegedly founded by Luo Huai (i.e. Luo Qing ), as
expressions of the principle of Non-Action (wuwei ). Their hierarchy was crowned by the
“Three Ultimates” (san ji , translated by de Groot as “Apexes”) of the Void, Supreme and
August Ultimates (wuji , taiji , huangji) and followed by the Three Jewels
(Triratna, or san bao ), representing the Buddhas (fo ), the Dharma (fa ) and the Sangha
(seng ). Buddhas, bodhisattvas and Daoist saints would complete the spiritual hierarchy in order of
personal choice. While many households added their own ancestors to this celestial order, the religious
veneration of ancestors was by no means universal. See de Groot, Sectarianism and Religious
Persecution, p. 180 ff.
35 A practice know as Releasing Life (fangsheng ). Kindness towards all animated nature was
regarded as a highly meritorious moral quality, and consequently advocated in the morality books
(shanshu ) and ledgers of merit and demerit (gong-guo ge ) of the period. See R. H.
C. Shek, “Religion and Society”, pp. 129 ff. and 145.
36 At least by the end of the nineteenth century, and to the obvious joy of de Groot. See his
Sectarianism and Religious Persecution, p. 192.
34
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Christian communities shared some of the features of Longhua iconophilia and
the preoccupation with the pure word of the Xiantian movement. In fact, to the
uninitiated official, these parallels could appear as proof that all three were part of the
same “heretical” substratum of popular religiosity. Perceived similarities in the
religious concepts of Xiantianjiao and Christianity exacerbated the confusion. Was,
after all, the Pre-Celestials’ belief in the creation of life out of the Apex of
Nothingness (wuji ) not reminiscent of that of the Christians in the Genesis?
Furthermore, some members of the Xiantian cult had come to the conclusion that
Jesus the Saviour was one of the dipankaras (or randengfo , i.e. LightMaking Buddhas), and hence a predecessor of Shakyamuni.37 Pious simplicity and
private observance were of course preferable to the unchecked propagation of popular
beliefs. But even private heresy, the state feared, could eventually lead to the
subversion of public order. The “subversive” character of religious popular
movements lay in the “practising and spreading of heretical teachings” (xi-chuan
xiejiao ) in full view of the greater community. Such “treacherous and
criminal” (jian-fei ) conduct is presented in a memorial of 23 May 1812 by
Yan Jian , governor general for Zhili. Yan Jian, referring to the proliferation of
Christian missionary activity in the “Miao areas” (miaojiang )38, pointed out
signboards
with
Christian
mottoes
and
symbols
(huaxie
tianzhu
paiwei
), which formed the rallying point for preachers intending to
37
Ibidem, pp. 179 and 192.
Increasing pressure through Han settlements as well as overt discrimination and persecution by
officials forced Miao villagers and other minorities (e.g. Lisu, Lahu) in Yunnan and Guizhou to flee
into inaccessible mountain terrain. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, ethnic minorities
converted to Christianity en masse, encouraged by the presence of foreign missionaries. See T’ien Juk’ang, Peaks of Faith, pp. 6-11. An account of the nineteenth century Lolo mission by Jean Baptiste
Bodes de Guébriant can be found in A. Flachère, Monsieur de Guébriant - Le missionnaire, Paris: Plon
1946, pp. 524-553 and 576-583. The biography also contains occasional references (passim) to
“superstitious practices” among the converted population.
38
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“confuse the masses” (huo zhong ).39 In order to deter further illegal
proliferation, all such symbols had to disappear, for “if the commoner does not fear
the law, there is no hope of reforming him; [hence] punishment is indispensable”.40
A missionary letter written at the beginning of the eighteenth century41
underlines the problem of sectarian interaction with the Christian communities:
The sect Sing li kiao [xing-li-jiao , i.e. Teaching of the Reason of
Nature] which in this province of Shandong has given us so much grief is still
a cause of concern. The sect has its roots in the White Lotus. After its parent,
the White Lotus, had been banned by the officials, thousands of male and
female sectarians were condemned to death. Among those who remained
unscathed, several reunited in the first year of the Kangxi period under the
leadership of a certain Liu Mingde , a soldier active in Henan,
though a native of Wenshang in the district of Yanzhou, of this our province of
Shandong. In order to escape persecution, his followers bribed officials and
changed the name of their sect, while leaving their liturgy unchanged. In
different parts of the country the sect adopted different names in order to
escape the prosecutors.42
39
The document is filed at the FHA, scroll 9258, original document 503, sub-number 44 (JQ 17/4/13,
i.e. 23 May 1812).
40. In the language of the Jiaqing emperor (in
reply to a memorial on Christianity in Sichuan Province by the official Yan Jian, 22/9/1812): “This
teaching has the most detrimental moral effects; we cannot afford to be slack in its investigation and
prohibition” (). See FHA,
scroll 9261, original document 503, sub-number 45.
41 This is the letter by Miguel Fernández Oliver to Kilian Stumpf, dated Jinan, 2 May 1718, for which
he made extensive use of information provided by Carlo Orazi de Castorano (notably in his descriptive
De rebus sinensibus). The letter is reprinted in Fortunato Margiotti (ed.), Sinica Franciscana, volume
VIII A, Rome: Sinica Franciscana 1975, pp. 955-962. The events leading to the trial in Jinan are
described in R. G. Tiedemann, "Christianity and Chinese ‘Heterodox Sects’”, pp. 357-360.
42 The original can be found in Sinica Franciscana VIII, pp. 955-956. The passage of the letter
addressed to Stumpf also contains references to other popular religious movements: ... el principal es
Sing li kiao , doctrina de la razón de la naturaleza; Pei lien kiao, doctrina o secta de la flor
blanca del nen·far ; Kun-zu kiao , doctrina del espacio sublunar; Li kiao,
doctrina de la razón; Puen ming chai , ayuno de la propria nomenclatura [secta
abstinentia proprii nominis]; Py hu zu kiao , secta de los trasgos o duendes [religio
inverecunda] (“Poltergeist Sect”); y otros. The term in round brackets and the Chinese characters stem
from my own interpretation. For a full analysis of the term Xing-li jiao, see R.G. Tiedemann
“Christianity and Chinese ‘Heterodox Sects’”, p. 365.
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Heterodox religious thought in the late imperial period was characterised by
the interaction between elements of (Confucian) orthodoxy, tolerated deviations from
the religious (Buddhist or Daoist) establishment, localised (shamanic, polytheistic)
customs as well as genuinely new ideas. Lacking detailed information concerning
orthodoxy and a confident grasp of the theological framework of the religious systems
functioning in China, the rural public embraced such “heterodox” phenomena with
few doubts. What mattered far more within the microcosm of village society was the
charisma of a movement's leader, as well as the practical benefits a village audience
could expect.43 Early nineteenth century sources clearly indicate the popularity of
pilgrimages perceived as “problematic” by the imperial government. Ever-vigilant
against potential sectarian unrest, the state monitored processions (known as
“Processions for welcoming the spirits”, ying-shen saihui ) and
attempted to limit the flow of religious pilgrims, in particular from other provinces.44
Such pilgrimages attracted a significant proportion of the farming population and were
therefore interpreted as economically “detrimental” - also because they “promote[d]
dissipation, and tend[ed] to corrupt the hearts and customs”.45 One example shedding
43
Commenting on syncretic religious movements in China, V. V. Malyavin distinguishes between
“popular religions” (minjian zongjiao ) and “popular beliefs” (minjian xinyang
). As opposed to the latter, “popular religions” are defined as being ultimately
dependent on the traditions established by the religious systems of Buddhism and Daoism. State and
ruling elite were usually more tolerant towards expressions of heterodox dissent if these did not
renounce all affiliations with previous systems. Movements which intended to form a qualitatively new
system - millenarian movements, as the prime example - are thus to be seen as expressions of “popular
beliefs”, which were condemned by the established religions and by the authorities as “heretical” (xie
) and politically dangerous. See Vladimir Vyacheslavovich Malyavin, “Zhongguo minjian zongjiao
qushi ” (“Tendencies in Chinese Popular Religion”), in: Shijie zongjiao
yanjiu  (“Research into World Religions”) January 1994, pp. 122-124.
44 The first decree prohibiting interprovincial pilgrimages dates from 1739, in the early Qianlong period
- a period of calm for the Christian communities. See K. C. Hsiao, Rural China, pp. 229-230. For a
general introduction to the topic see Susan Naquin and Chün-fang Yü, “Pilgrimages in China”, in Susan
Naquin and Chün-fang Yü (eds), Pilgrims and Sacred Sites in China, pp. 1-26, in particular pp. 9-21.
45 Cited from the Jiaqing emperor’s edict of 14 June 1800 (as translated by de Groot). See J. J. M. de
Groot, Sectarianism and Religious Persecution, p. 383.
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light on the world of heterodox sects towards the beginning of the eighteenth century
can be found in a description dating from the year 1714, contained in the travelogue of
Matteo Ripa. Ripa begins, following contemporary convention, by segregating the
“orthodox sects” of Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism from the panoply of
popular religious movements. The latter encompassed “thirty-six minor sects and
seventy-two
large
ones”
(sanshiliu
xiaojiao,
qishier
longmen
). Officials, however, only recognised the three
grand traditions as legitimate, rejecting all others as unorthodox.46 Ripa concluded
that since the majority of Chinese commoners belonged to one of the legion of
outlawed sectarian movements, the case against Christian “heretics” could certainly
not be severe.47 Providing more detailed information on the situation concerning
popular religious movements in Shandong, Ripa cited the three biggest contemporary
movements:
Ru-li-jiao
,48
Kong-zi-jiao
,49
and
the
aforementioned Xing-li-jiao , stressing the extortionate methods of its
founder Liu Mingde, and the fascination which emanated from his construct of being
the reincarnation of the legendary Confucius. With reference to Liu Mingde’s
movement, Ripa warns his missionary audience against admitting converts of dubious
quality (con cuor non sincero), who entered the community of the Christian faithful in
order to escape the watchful eye of the district magistrate, eager to root out any
remnants of the Xing-li movement. Ripa’s concern then drifts to those converts who
... solamente tre sette si danno per vere e s’approvano, cioè: Giu kiao [], Fo kiao [],
Tao kiao [], setta de letterati, de bonzi e de tauzi [], e tutte l’altre sette si danno per
false e si riprovano.” See Michele Fatica (ed.), Matteo Ripa, Giornale (1705-1724), Vol. II (17111716), p. 353.
47 Ibidem. Ripa, in fact, quoted the number of one hundred and eight illegal sectarian movements.
48 “Servants of Confucianism” - the name may be a protective veneer, in order to confuse the state
officials.
49 Ditto - but note the homophony of Kongzijiao , the “Teachings of Confucius”, with
Kongzijiao. See also p. 74, footnote 35.
46
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may already have entered Christian communities without having altered their pagan
habits, but who were regarded by their former fellow believers of the Xing-li
movement as traitors, and therefore in danger of incurring harm. To distinguish
between “good” and “bad” Christians was an impossible task, in particular since the
inter-communal rivalry between religious movements often produced distorted
pictures of truth.50 In a personalised example, Ripa cites the case of the head of the
Christian community of Yaotou  in Dong’e district (Dong’e xian ).
The same huizhang Zhang was known to Ripa as a reliable, decent Christian, yet
personal opponents from three other communities accused him of belonging to Liu
Mingde’s sect. Ripa decided to accompany his friend, convinced of his innocence, and
to his horror witnessed the damage which the enmity between the Christian
communities had done to the Christian community at large. Ripa’s sorrowful
conclusion was that “only God could read the innermost secrets of a human being”,
while his message to those Christians - Chinese converts and European missionaries
alike - who demanded tough punishment for suspected “traitors” was one of
benevolence and reason.51
A great worry to the Christian missionaries was the tendency among White
Lotus followers to infiltrate Christian communities by participating in collective
baptisms. The effect of the mass conversions was decried by both missionary and
official: “Beancurd Christians” (doufu jiaotu ) brought discord into the
Christian community, and made the intelligence work of the police officials more
difficult. Legal cases against Christians - genuine and “bean curd” - proliferated, with
50
The worried words of Carlo da Castorano in his letter to Matteo Ripa are reproduced and translated
in Appendix 1 of this thesis. See Michele Fatica (ed.), Matteo Ripa, Giornale (1705-1724), Volume II
(1711-1716), pp. 354-355.
51 Ibidem, p. 355.
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local watchmen (difang ) denouncing anybody behaving in a suspicious
manner.52
The eighteenth century produced a considerable degree of cross-fertilisation
between Christianity and other popular religions. Missionary correspondence viewed
the refusal to comply with the bulls condemning “pagan rites” as a major problem. In
particular Christians of White Lotus background, “harvested” by means of mass
conversions, clung more tenaciously to their cultural traditions than individually
converted neophytes. In the words of Father M.F.Oliver:
[The European priests] made a point of lamenting that among those newly
converted Christians many had stated to them that their customs were
thoroughly Chinese, whereas the same converts also told me that they obeyed
the teachings of the [church] as regards ancestors, tablets, etc. At a funeral in
Jining conducted with sixty musicians and great financial expenditure there
were certain brotherhoods who - despite being infidels - participated by
disinterring their parents in order to re-inter them according to the rites of [our]
God. Christians recited their prayers, and those who were not [Christians]
carried out their own rites by erecting tablets to their forebears. On Holy
Friday, in the church of Jining, the sectarians then had the audacity to
announce before the priest and the assembled congregation that none of the
former had really adopted the Christian faith, and that they only participated in
the Eucharist and in the other sacraments fictitiously.53
The same missive continues with an account illustrating the exotic appeal
which Christianity added to the array of popular syncretic thought in the late imperial
period. Three men, two of whom - Li Yeshi and Zhan Chengjie had been baptised by Carlo Orazi de Castorano and by P. Nieto Diaz respectively and
52
The term was used derogatorily by Carlo Orazi, when referring to the mass conversions of Francisco
Nieto Díaz (1660-1739) in Shandong. Cf. R. G. Tiedemann “Christianity and Chinese ‘Heterodox
Sects’”, p. 356.
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a “beggar” merely named as Niu San “huazi”  (“Third son, 'Little
Beggar' of the Niu family”),54 who declared himself a firm Christian believer despite
not having been baptised, approached the church of Linqing, in the capital of Linqing
Subprefecture  (bordering Zhili Province in a narrow strip of land in the
west of Shandong) ...
... on the 28th day of February of the year 1718, at two o’clock of the day. One
of the three carried two yellow cloth wrappers (baofu ) on his back, a
yellow paper hood covering his head ... The two proceeded in majestic strides
and spoke with overbearing arrogance, saying that the Great Lord had sent
them, and furthermore that bishop Della Chiesa should come out to receive the
imperial mandate. The people present in the building wanted to bar the
entrance, asking them what business they had, but they entered nevertheless,
not disclosing anything but their claim that Della Chiesa was about to become
emperor. By the time they had reached the inner room (yaofang ) next
to the kitchen, the others snatched away the sachet made of yellow paper and
brought it to me. When I opened it, I discovered inside several red papers,
covered in patterns devoid of form and meaning. At this very moment, the
rascals pointed at the sachets, saying that they comprised a message (danzi
) of the great master. In their stilted tone of voice they announced that it
could not be touched unless candles of incense were lit to honour his lordship.
I asked them inside, and after they had shown me (i.e. Carlo Orazi) their respect
in accordance with their own symbolism, bowing thrice in front of what they
believed to be the Sacred Image, ... I asked whence they had come. Upon
which they answered that they had come from Macau, and that they had been
sent by the Grand Master. When I asked them where Macau was situated, and
how they had made their way to this city, they replied that Macau was not very
53
M. F. Oliver to K. Stumpf (2 May 1718), in Sinica Franciscana VIII, pp. 960.
This may of course also be the anagramic corruption of a real name, such as observed in the White
Lotus rebellion of 1796 in Hubei. A leader with the real surname Zhu was known to the other
followers as Niu ba ,two characters which form the zhu character when superimposed. Cf. J. J.
M. de Groot, Sectarianism and Religious Persecution, p. 351.
54
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far to the east of here [i.e. Linqing], somewhere in the districts of Boping and
Chiping.55 I asked them who the Grand Master was, and what it was that made
him so great. They answered that it was a certain Yang Dele.56
Yang Dele  was a native of Chiping District, where he was born in
1687. When he had reached the age of thirty-one in 1718, he imitated the example of
Jesus and declared himself Son of God, second person of the Trinity, come to judge
the quick and the dead. For the offence of proclaiming to act on behalf of the dynasty,
and for allocating official titles and honours, the state officials had him banished to
Fujian in March 1718. Less than two years later, at the end of 1719, Yang Dele
managed to return to his district of birth, with the help of his followers.
I asked about the purpose of their mission, and they ... opened the sachets,
where - among other pieces of paper - there were some written characters:
One began with [the name of the White Lotus patriarch] Liu Mingde, and
the two others consisted of two coloured sheets - one in red, the other in
yellow - depicting a variety of shapeless symbols. Among the latter were
some loose indications relating to evil acts, and one piece describing how
the three persons would be taking horses with red reins - ... the grand
master on a horse with yellow reins - and with two whips to give to the
devil.57
Having finished the audience, Orazi consulted with Bishop Della Chiesa,
concluding that the case would have to be reported to the chief official of the
subprefecture, the zhizhou . In a similar occurrence, we read of a trial convened
in Beijing during the last years of the eighteenth century.58 State officials had arrested
Boping  and Chiping are two district towns in the prefecture of Dongchangfu
, Shandong Province, not more than a couple of days’ walking distance from Linqing.
56 M. F. Oliver to K. Stumpf (2 May 1718), in Sinica Franciscana VIII, pp. 961-962.
57 Ibidem, p. 962.
58 In any case after the death of the Qianlong emperor in 1796. Reported in the letter by A. Luigi da
Signa, from Shanxi province, 7 March 1806. Recorded as APF document SC, series III, Cina and Regni
55
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Christians and followers of other seditious cults, after a religious leader of unclear
provenance had declared himself Patriarch of the Poor. As if the threat of further
insurrection among the impoverished peasantry had not been sufficiently
incriminating, we also learn that he claimed to be in possession of the imperial head
cover of the deceased Qianlong ruler. This was tantamount to high treason, and led to
the immediate apprehension of the religious leader, who was then chained and
transported from the Huguang to the imperial capital for trial. The imperial
government obviously wanted to preclude a repetition of the White Lotus uprisings of
the preceding decade. The measures to be expected against the followers of sectarian
movements deemed “heretical” were hence as harsh as possible. The official report by
Emmanuele Conforti at the end of the eighteenth century observed that the town (fu
) Ren’an counted numerous merchants among its Christian population. These were
highly mobile, difficult to influence by the missionaries and prone to absorbing
erroneous ideas about Christianity. Worse still, they tended to take their
individualised, unorthodox beliefs to the markets and cities they frequented.59 In this
regard, conversion to Christianity followed the pattern of bigger groups - be it the
“White Lotus” or other similar movements. These cases shed light on an interesting
phenomenon: Christianity had become a movement largely independent of foreign
guidance. The occasionally reporting foreign missionaries stood by in order to observe
the spread of popular variants of a Christian cult they were no longer able to influence.
Its popular success can thus be measured in the degree of emulation by competing
cults.
Adiacenti, 1806-1811, folium 105 V. Regrettably, some passages of the document have faded to near
illegibility.
59 Cf. B. Willeke, “The Report of the Apostolic Visitation”, p. 228.
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Whereas this chapter focused on overt manifestations of popular Christianity
and on its place among other popular religious movements, the following chapter will
analyse the underlying causes of Christianity’s appeal to the religious public. The
chapter will begin by attempting to shed light on the central themes of Christian
soterology - sin and confession, soul and redemption - as seen from the converts’
angle. It will proceed by analysing the role of healing and magic, visions of afterlife,
attitudes towards apostasy, matrimony and divorce and finally - crucially - of the filial
ties binding Christian individuals to their convert-ancestors and to their community in
general.
Chapter 5:
Peasant millenarianism and Christian theology
1. Guilt, sin, universal harmony
Christianity shared one common objective with China’s greater philosophical
traditions: To reach beyond the confines of everyday life, in the quest for eternal truth,
for the Dao . Christian pamphlets and translations of philosophical and theological
nature were at first directed at the intellectual elite but had, by the beginning of the
eighteenth century, captured a much broader audience familiar with the terminology of
late imperial philosophical discourse.1 A panoply of millenarian traditions expressed
the yearnings of commoners during the later imperial period: Liberation of the soul,
1
These apparent similarities often became evident in the titles adopted by the religious leaders, usually
merging terms of respect commonly accepted throughout the religious system. Within the Yiguandao
 tradition, for instance, is known for employing spiritual names and titles also of Christian
and Islamic origins. The leader of the Xiantiandao ( “Pre-Celestial Teaching” Cheng
Congdeo f Hongdong Districtin Shanxi Province was known as the “Sakyamuni
Buddha” (Shijia-fo ) under the Daoist epithet “Lord Li Lao” (Li Laojun ), as
well as “Confucius come to Earth” (Kongfuzi linfan ); cf. Hou Jie and Fan Lizhu,
Zhongguo minzhong zongjiao yiship. 157. Wu Peiyi sees a blurring of class distinctions as the main
catalyst for a change in perceptions of “guilt” and “shame”. See Wu Pei-yi , “SelfExamination and the Confession of Sins in Traditional China”, in: Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies
XXXIX-1 (June 1979), p. 37.
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combined with concrete socio-economic freedom for the peasantry.2 Daoistic
millenarianism echoed concepts which must have facilitated the understanding of the
Christian concepts of the Trinity; the first Christian translators, for instance, directly
borrowed the concept of the “Unity of the Three” (san wei yi ti ) from
Daoist cosmology.3 The popularity of the Amitabha Buddha as the redeemer from
earthly suffering united villagers from all across China. A first important point of
cultural contact was hence the common belief that the gulf between the spiritual and
the material worlds could be bridged by a mortal acting as mediator between humans
and spirits. This belief goes beyond Daoist preoccupation with the physical, and may
be a remnant of early poly-spiritual and shamanic cults.4 Christian theology hinges on
the soterological function of Christ, forming a symbolic bridge between the sinful
world of mortals and Heaven. In contrast to Biblical thinking, most Chinese traditions
seem ignorant of a concept of “sin”, emphasising instead the innate goodness of
human nature and the ability to reform the wicked through education.5 A Christian
2
By the beginning of the eighteenth century, two Daoist schools had received an imperial monopoly
over ordinations: the Tianshidao (also known as Zhengyidao ) administered
ordinations in southern China, whereas the highly Buddhified Quanzhendao  enjoyed this
monopoly over the Chinese north. Visions of the Redeemer (shenren , zhenren )
clutching on to a Celestial Document (tianshu ) symbolising his identity as the Lord Saviour of
the World (jiushizhu ) hark back to the Northern Song period. For more details, see Hans
Küng and Julia Ching, Christianity and Chinese Religions, p. 148 ff. If formal Daoist movements had
passed their prime, Daoism’s legacy within the popular religious universe had penetrated the teachings
and practice of most other religious movements. See Richard Hon-chun Shek, "Millenarianism without
Rebellion: The Huangtian Dao in North China", in: Modern China VIII-3 (July 1982), pp. 305-336.
3 See R. H. C. Shek, “Religion and Society”, pp. 71-76. For a concise analysis of Chinese
interpretations of the Bible, cf. K. H. Ting, “The Chinese Christians’ Approach to the Bible”, in: China
Notes XXI-2/3 (1991), pp. 623-628.
4 Cf. Zhao Zhongming , Wushi, wushu, mijing - zhongguo wushu wenhua zhuizong
( “Shamans, sorcery, forbidden spaces - Traces of
China’s culture of sorcery”), Kunming: Yunnan daxue chubanshe (Yunnan
University Press) 1993, pp. 84-96.
5 The Mencian tradition of Confucianism in particular stresses the state of perfection at birth and the
ability of education to rectify human error. The opening couplet of the Sanzijing  (“Three
Character Classic”), used for popular education since the Song period, graphically underlines this fact:
“At life’s very beginning, human nature is perfect” (). Originated by Zhu Xi
(1130-1200) and - probably - first published by Wang Yinglin  (1223-1296), the
Sanzijing has been edited on several occasions, though the Neo-Confucian classic always begins with
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pamphlet from the early seventeenth century may serve as an example illustrating how
the Christian soterological message was translated into a Confucian context.6 Despite
an otherwise thorough understanding of Christian principles, the author presents the
concepts of sin and redemption in a thoroughly Mencian light: The original state of
perfection (ben-shan ) was lost through “evil practice” (xi-e ), resulting
in the eviction from Paradise and the torments of earthly existence. Yet all human
beings are, by the gracious nature of the Christian god, equipped with the desire
(liang-xin ) and the innate ability to overcome this state of imperfection (chaoxing zhi ming ). Redemption is thus earned through the pursuit of
Christianity’s beneficial teachings - thus assigning the (Confucian) role of “teacher”
(shi ) to the Christian missionary. An awkward moment for Western clerics arrived
when having to account for the soterological status of a convert’s ancestors.
Reminiscent of Paul’s ambiguous explanations to the first Greek congregations, any
Chinese with a Confucian upbringing would find it hard to accept eternal bliss while
one’s parents were languishing in hell. The same applied to Confucian worthies with
an impeccable socio-ethical past (the “sages”, sheng ). Could they be punished for
having been ignorant of a teaching which originated from the extreme reaches of the
known world? These were problems the Confucian intellectuals debated in earnest
with the Jesuit Worthies from the West (xi-ru ). For Christian commoners,
these questions were “academic” in the true sense of the word - remote from the
this verse. For an Englished version, see H. A. Giles (transl. and annot.), Elementary Chinese:
Santzuching, Shanghai: Kelly & Walsh 1910.
6 The mentioned document is Li Jiubiao’s Kouduo richao (“Daily Record of Oral
Exhortations”) published between 1630 to 1640 - the annotated conversations between Giulio Aleni and
fellow Jesuit missionaries. I rely on the information provided by Erik Zürcher in his - yet unpublished contribution “Confucian and Christian Religiosity in Late Ming China” for the Symposium on the
History of Christianity in China, Hong Kong, 2-4 October 1996, p. 18 ff. Since the Kouduo richao and
similar seventeenth-century tracts were still widely circulated during the following century, their
influence on China’s Christian communities remained considerable. See also p. 269 ff. of this thesis
(chapter on the “Christian sutras”).
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mental universe of the tiller or workman. The key parallel to - and origin of - the
Confucian system was the veneration of ancestry. During the eighteenth century it
would become clear that Christianity’s survival in China would depend on its ability
to adapt to ancestral traditions.7
Conventionally, the absence of (original) sin is interpreted as one of the key
separators between the Chinese and Western understanding of human nature.8 The
consequences for any Christian missionary enterprise were by necessity grave:
Without sin as the main cause of rupture between God and the World there was no
need for reconciliation with the Christian deity. Hence no need for repentance,
confession and Eucharist.9 Traditions of confession and atonement certainly existed
within the Confucian elite.10 But “sins” (zui or guo ) in the commonly held
understanding merely constituted transgressions against social, moral or legal
conventions, and all sin could be atoned for in this world by re-establishing harmony
among one’s human relations. In the final analysis, there was no apparent need for a
transcendental model delivering salvation, indeed for redemption as such.11 This does
not imply that converts lacked interest in a better life following their earthly existence.
On the contrary, we repeatedly encounter the statement of wishing to “be certain to
7
For more insight into the relevance of ancestry in literati thought see Nicolas Standaert, Yang
Tingyun, p. 128 ff. A contemporary parallel to this crucial observation can be found in the research by
David Jordan, with the focus on popular religious traditions in Taiwan. See David Jordan, Gods,
Ghosts, and Ancestors, pp. 87-102. Nicole Constable’s research has produced insight into Christian
surrogates for the traditional ancestral rites. See her “The Village of Humble Worship - Religion and
Ethnicity in a Hakka Protestant Community in Hong Kong”, PhD thesis: University of California 1989,
pp. 1-14 and 188 ff.
8 Emphasised, for instance, in Zhuo Xinpin, “The Concept of Original Sin in the Cultural Encounter
between East and West”, in: Philip Wickeri and Lois Cole, Christianity and Modernization: A Chinese
Debate, Hong Kong: DAGA Press 1995, pp. 91-101.
9 A fact much lamented by the few Western priests who had remained in China, such as the Mgr. Pottier
(MEP). See Léonide Guiot, La Mission du Su-tchuen au XVIIIme siècle, p. 274.
10 See Wu Pei-yi, “Self-Examination and the Confession of Sins”, pp. 22-28 on the “Confucian
confessional”.
11 See Zhuo Xinpin, “The Concept of Original Sin”, pp. 93 and 97-99; also Wolfram Eberhard, Guilt
and Sin in Traditional China, Berkeley: University of California Press 1967.
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ascend to heaven” (biding yao shengtian ). The precise quality of
this pronouncement remains, however, unexplained. Within the context of religious
life during the mid-Qing period, the connotation may very well have been akin to the
Buddhist aspiration to escape the cycle of reincarnation by reaching Nirvana.12 Tired
of the tribulations of daily life in arid fields and along endless canals, many tillers and
toilers looked ahead to a better form of existence following the end of earthly life.
Despite major theological and socio-philosophical differences, most millenarian sects
in the mid-Qing regarded “heaven” and “the sun” as symbols of future bliss.13
Further evidence suggesting a reluctance of Chinese Christians to confess their
sins stems from a letter by the Propaganda missionary Jean Joseph Ghislain, CM (Ji
Deming ) on the policies of the incumbent bishop of Beijing.14 For several
years, the Church had forbidden non-confessing Christians to participate in the
Eucharist. In order to reveal the identity of Christians, who habitually refrained from
confessing their trespassings, the letter explains, the bishop adopted a policy of
coercion in order to force unrepentant Christians to comply with the Catholic
tradition: Confessing parishioners would receive a “ticket” (billet de confession),
enabling the clergy to keep detailed statistical accounts concerning the frequency of
confession and absolution. In cases of non-attendance, parishioners were registered
12
Gleaned from the confessions of the Christian Manchurians Yintang and Yinsi, in their defence
against accusations of high treason, in 1726. See Wenxian congbian, “The Case against Yinsi and
Yintang”, p. 5.
13
See Ma Xisha , “Minjian zongjiao jiushi sixiang de yanbian
” (“The evolution of soterological thinking in popular
Chinese
religion”),
in:
Zhongguo
shehuikexueyuan
yanjiushengyuan
xuebao, 1995-4, pp. 44-50, in particular chapter
three on Maitreyism.
14 Ghislain was a member of the Congrégation de la Mission and missionary apostolic. The letter was
sent from Beijing to Paris on 6-11-1806, with a copy directed to the Propaganda authorities. See APF
SC, series III, Cina et Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, ff. 187-188. The fact that this letter was authored
towards the very end of the period of missionary prohibition in the immediate vicinity of the court
missionaries is revealing, for it shows the persistence of traditional concepts after several decades of
Christian propagation.
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and penitential exercises imposed, combined with regular acts of contrition and
periods of seclusion.
Ghislain’s letter continues with the remark that these coercive methods proved
useless, in particular since the measures instilled fear rather than trust. Most Christians
in the capital were poor and lived among non-believers, which made it virtually
impossible to attend mass during times of increased vigilance by the state. The strict
measures which the Chinese government had adopted to prevent Christians from
entering missionary premises did indeed form a formidable deterrent against church
attendance: Soldiers had been posted in front of Beijing’s church gates, the female
oratories were closed, houses searched at random. The distribution of confession
tickets were counterproductive even from a different angle, since the practice
imperilled those Christians who had participated in confessions against the
prohibitions of the state. For this reason, the letter concludes, the Portuguese padres
had been opposed to the idea from the outset.15 Pressure by the state thus seems to
have succeeded in intimidating Chinese Christians in the congregations of the capital.
But the reluctance to attend confessions antedated the prohibition of the early 1800s,
leaving us to consider factors of a more profound nature - specifically whether
Christians understood what the function of absolution was, and the consequences of
“private” moral transgressions, which no other person witnessed. Rather than
attempting to escape the vigilant eyes of “heathen” neighbours, it seems that a desire
for confession and absolution could not be assumed a natural outcome of conversion stubborn reminders that inculturated Christianity resulted in practices which could
differ substantially from the orthodoxy of eighteenth century Catholicism.
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15
... as opposed to their (mostly French) rivals from the Propaganda contingent.
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2. Healing and black magic
The abstract concept of redemption in the Greco-Judaic tradition is
complemented by the concrete figure of the Holy Man, who is both a link to the
spiritual dimension and healer of this-worldly injustice and disease.16 This dual role of
the soter may explain why Christian missionaries were sought after as providers of
pharmaceutical substances - in competition with other soterological traditions.17 In the
earliest Chinese records, the task to unite the spiritual world with that of the mortals
(shen-ren heyi ) was a cultic function executed by the court shaman.18
In the wake of the gradual Confucianisation of China’s aristocratic courts, this
transcendental office was taken over by the ruler himself - as the tianzi , Son of
Heavenwhile Heaven remained the ultimate master over the entire cosmic order (tianren heyi ).19 To preserve harmony (datong ) was hence both a
religious as well as a political imperative of the ruler.20 Failing to carry out this
16
For aspects of early Christianity, see Peter Brown’s article “The Rise and Function of the Holy Man
in Late Antiquity”, in Jochen Martin and Barbara Quint, Christentum und Antike Gesellschaft,
Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 1990, pp. 391-439 - in particular pp. 417 and 429. For
an investigation of African traditions of “healing”, see C. Nyamiti, Christ as our Ancestor, pp. 55-57.
“Healing” in traditional China is analysed in Hans Küng and Julia Ching, Christianity and Chinese
Religions, pp. 163-167.
17 The tendencies of popular religiosity in late antiquity - mystery cults, fear of demonic influence and
of disease - are summarised in Alois Kehl, “Antike Volksfrömmigkeit und das Christentum”, in: Martin
and Quint, Christentum und Antike Gesellschaft, pp. 108-119.
18 The shaman (wu ) could originally be male or female, though male sorcerers (wu ) were
increasingly preferred, also a sign of ascending Confucianism’s patriarchal hegemony. From the end of
the Warring States period onwards, the sorcerer was replaced by the shi , who had the twofold task
of predicting the future and of recording the events of the past. Cf. Zhao Zhongming, Wushi, wushu,
mijing, pp. i ff, 1, 28-30. An interesting study of shamanistic-priestly functions (i.e. the healing,
redeeming, prophesying, exorcising and blessing of believers) and the charismatic Christian churches of
modern Korea is Sang-Chan Han, Beziehungen zwischen dem Schamanismus und dem Verständnis des
Heiligen Geistes in der protestantischen Kirche in Korea: Religionsphänomenologische und
missionstheologische Untersuchungen, Hamburg: Verlag an der Lottbek 1991. See in particular pp. 3541 and 136-153.
19 The characters used as imperial titles - wang , huang or di - all have spiritual
connotations, indicating that the ruler, as Supreme Shaman (taizhu ), was in charge of all
political and all spiritual activities within the empire. For more information on the early role of the
emperor, see in Zhao Zhongming, Wushi, wushu, mijing, p. 29 ff.
20 The terminology used by the early Christian missionaries reflected the desire to assume a truly
pontifical role. The use of Daoist and Buddhist models, however, produced misunderstandings, and
gave rise to unmistakably “Christian” terms: sa-ze-er-duo-de , for the Romance
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imperative could result in Heaven abrogating its mandate (tianming ) through
natural calamities and popular unrest.21 Millenarian movements thrived on the
conviction that they acted as agents of Heaven, in their struggle to restore cosmic
harmony and to destroy the temporal rulers. Their leaders, but also apolitical popular
healers, claimed to form a bridge between cosmic forces and humanity, and were
therefore targeted by the Confucian state.22 Even itinerant quacks could thus be
perceived by the state as a menace to public order and a threat to the monopoly of the
emperor as the pontifex between Heaven and the empire. This affected soterological
cults popular in northern China among barren women and the sick, such as the Red
Yang Cult (Hongyangjiao ),23 as well as Christian missionaries selling
pharmaceutical substances to improve their finances. The general prohibition against
Christian missionaries performing medical functions was reiterated in imperial
decrees throughout the eighteenth century. A letter sent to the Propaganda in the year
1805 mentions the Decreto del Emperador de la China of the same year, which
clearly stated that “diabolical medicines” were under no circumstances to be
sacerdote, simplified to siduode or siduo ; later the honorific shenfu 
“Spiritual Father” became common currency. See F. Margiotti, Il cattolicismo nello Shansi, pp. 459460.
21 Known as geming , the modern term for “revolution”. One of the clearest references to the
accountability of the ruler to his celestial origin is a passage in the Mozi : “If there is fault anywhere [in the empire], then the ruler himself is at fault” (). See
Burton
Watson (transl.), Mo-Tzu - Basic Writings, New York and London: Columbia University Press 1963,
section “Lian’ai”(“All-Embracing Love”), pp. 39-49.
22 Lin Zhaoen attained wide-spread support through his genbei  method of inner alchemy and
the ensuing performance of miracle healings. See K. Dean, Lord of the Three in One, pp. 106-107 and
129 and R. H. C. Shek, “Religion and Society”, pp. 67-69.
23 The Hongyang cult, with all its diverse offshoots, developed into a most influential religious
movement of the late imperial period. Though the cult had attained wide popularity by the middle of the
Jiaqing period, official records often perceived the Hongyang cult as an expression of the “Eight
Trigrams” (Baguajiao ) or of the “White Lotus” (Bailianjiao ) teachings.
Hongyang followers could be found in abundance within the banner troops and among the Manchurian
aristocracy. For more information see Qin Baoqi, Zhongguo dixia shehui, pp. 479-495, as well as R. H.
C. Shek, “Religion and Society”, pp. 276-287.
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distributed among the people, neither by Europeans nor by Chinese.24 The
missionaries were caught between the desire to act as helpers, in the process of
“saving” the local heathens from bodily and metaphysical harm, and the fact that they
competed with the traditional providers of medication and authority: Doctors, healers
and the local literati. Christian missionaries were thus, wittingly or not, perpetuating
rumours of magical healing being used as a ruse for attracting commoners to sectarian
movements. Imperial officials would seize on the distribution of medical drugs as
examples of nefarious activity. A memorial of the year 1805 enumerates the moral
monstrosities of one Sun Dan’gan , leader of the Qiaoqiao sect. In
the case of this Maitreyan movement, the distribution of medical herbs was reportedly
intended to lure honourable women into sexual promiscuity - an allegation readily
believed and vilified by significant sections of contemporary society, including the
reporting official.25 Against this background, the potential for harmful speculation
against Christian missionaries involved in the administration of medical drugs was
momentous.
The letter by Gioacchino Salvetti (OFM, 1769-1843), sent from the carceri di
Cantone in December 1806 provides an example of how medicines attracted ordinary
commoners to the missionaries. The reported incident, however, portrayed the
missionary as the victim of a ruse: Having been accosted by a man pretending to be in
desperate need of medicine, Gioacchino arranged to see the patient and potential
convert. The latter excused himself, exchanged some words with a local prostitute
(una di quelle qui si dicono buone donne), who departed within moments of having
24
Composed JQ 10/5/15, i.e. 12-6-1805 - the edict which would ignite the persecutions of the year
1805. See APF SOCP, Indie Orientali, 1817, folium 33 R (referring to article 10 of the edict).
25 De Groot, Sectarianism and Religious Persecution, p. 406, after Shengxun 99. The memorialising
official is cited as Fang Weidian .
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been approached. And before the missionary knew what had happened, members of
the yamen police force apprehended him, in order to imprison the priest for the illegal
activities of proselytisation and the sale of medical preparations.26 The Vatican itself
was also aware of the dubious quality of pharmaceutical commerce for the
propagators of the faith. On the one hand, the mundane task of sustaining one’s
livelihood had been acknowledged since the beginnings of the mission - grants from
Europe and the permission to raise rental income through buildings erected by
missionaries bear witness to this. On the other hand, missionaries were keen to be
regarded as morally superior representatives of a belief stressing justice and the
absence of avarice; the pursuit of commercial gain was thus hardly concomitant with
these lofty aims.27 The arrest of the Chinese priest Peter Ly in the year 1805, while
selling medicine in a public square in the capital, led to renewed tension between state
officials and missionaries, to the detriment of the public standing of the Church. The
Vatican hence reiterated its prohibition on commercial activities involving medicines
of any kind.28 The prohibition seems to have had only limited effect, since in
November of the same year, a former Jesuit missionary (here referred to as a certain
Bernardo) was caught selling a preparation referred to as mi hung tang, of which we
learn that it was regarded by gentiles as a drug which debilitated the human willpower,
with the effect of inducing its consumers to be disposed favourably towards the
26
Gioacchino was later offered to apostatise by walking over a crucifix. He refused, was kept in
solitary confinement, but was treated well and, obviously, able to communicate with the outside world.
The experience of the Franciscan Gioacchino Salvetti (Chinese name Ai or Jin Ruoyajing
) is reported in APF SC, Indie Orientali/Cina, 1806-1811, ff. 241-242, where he is simply
referred to as “Father Giovacchino” (sic).
27 A letter by Nathanaël Burger, Vicar Apostolic of Taiyuan, of August 1779 contains interesting
information on the “scandalous” involvement of a Chinese priest in the twilight zone between
commercial and criminal activity. Filed at the APF as SC, Indie Orientali/Cina, 1779-1781, ff. 127-130.
28 A letter of the year 1806 highlights the consequences of the 1805 persecution for the Christians in the
capital. See APF document SOCP, Indie Orientali, 1806-1811, folium 23.
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Christian sect.29 When, during a widespread persecution six years later, the state
officials in Beijing confiscated the belongings of the missionary congregations, they
also seized medical preparations and instruments imported during the Kangxi years,
which had accompanied the daily work of the missionaries for almost one hundred
years. The seizure of medical equipment can thus also be seen as the symbolic end of
the missionaries’ role in the capital as healers of both body and soul.
While Chinese officials acted against missionaries who drew capital out of the
“stultifying effects” (shanhuo renxin ) of miracle healings, and those
who exploited the “stupidity” of women desperate for children, their allegations were
extended to the distribution of writings in Latin script (xiyang fanzi ),
which were used by Christians as religious decoration (gua-hua ).30 This was
certainly not due to their contents but rather to the magical importance allocated to the
script and to chanted formulas.31 Even to Christian converts, items of Christian
literature were hardly more than rudimentary fragments of a greater system
transmitted by wise, yet alien men. Such “fragments” of the Christian faith were then
memorised by commoners, such as the manual labourer with the name He Guoda
, an eighteenth century migrant worker whom we will meet again in the
following part of this thesis.32 The migrant worker’s frequent references to revelations
from his nightly dreams indicate that the Christian imagery offered substantial
29
Mi hung tang, cioè acqua, che fa ... impazzare. Reported in a letter by Luigi da Signa, Shanxi
province 1806. Cf. APF document SC, series III, Cina and Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, folium 107 R.
The term itself may mean “Sweet Red Wine Drink” (mi-hong-tang ), or perhaps simply
“Secret Concoction” (mi huntang ).
30 Here we have two brief memorials dealing with the discovery of Christian scriptures in Latin script in
Hubei province. The memorials were sent by the circuit official for Hubei, Heng Wen, in QL 16/6/15
and QL 16/8/30, i.e. 6/8/1751 and 18/10/1751, respectively. See FHA document 493 (scroll 9258),
numbers 28 and 29, frames 376-379.
31 A similar Christian source from the late Ming period, combining instances of miraculous healing
with detailed instructions as how to exorcise evil spirits, is analysed in E. Zürcher, "The Lord of Heaven
and the Demons", pp. 357-376.
32 He Guoda’s case is discussed in greater detail on pp. 275-289.
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attraction to non-Christians with religious inclinations.33 In confidential conversations
with a certain Xie Defu, He Guoda expressed a profound interest in “black magic”
(fashu ), for which he had gained a reputation during his brief sojourn in
Longmentan. Already in his youth he recalled having used peachwood strips to
“exorcise” (zhenzhi ) the cause of a disease plaguing his maternal uncle. Now
he used this knowledge in combination with Christian scriptures which had been
offered to him during his stay in Sichuan.34 He Guoda’s interest in “black magic” was
a common element of popular religious life. It was seen by the Confucian state as a
threat to orthodoxy, and hence also featured in the legal code of the Qing empire.
“Sorcery” (wu ) was indeed a commonplace accusation used by state officials to
discredit heterodox movements. From a memorial submitted in the thirteenth year of
the Yongzheng period we learn of Zhili provincial Li Fu and his son Li
Juncheng , “whose incantations could make the clouds bring forth rain, and
whose curses could fell trees”. Most worryingly for the state, they were masters of the
martial arts, stored weaponry in their homes, and had even built up a nomenclature
based on the military hierarchy of the Qing. Using secret sutras and amulets, paintings
and sculptures to perform black magic, cult leaders such as the Li were able to attract
large followings among the “bewitched” peasantry. The latter protected their shepherd
through loyalty and silence - reinforced by the remoteness of their villages, which
were often set deeply in difficult mountain terrain.35 Demonised in official
We know that Wang Lun , founder of the Pure Water (Qingshui) sect, derived the
essence of his vision from dreams. See Naquin, Shantung Rebellion, p. 38 ff. On the role of shamanic
visions in contemporary Taiwan (Daoist ‘intervention gods’), see also Stephan Feuchtwang, The
Imperial Metaphor - Popular Religion in China, London: Routledge 1992, p. 141 ff.
34 S
 ee FHA, scroll 9258, original number 492,
sub-numbers 19-20, frames 339-344, memorial dated QL 39/4/12 (i.e. 21/5/1774).
35The same memorial creates the impression that the lapsed Christian was also preparing for an armed
uprising:

33
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documentation, heterodox movements faced charges of “rumour-mongering” and of
practising “witchcraft”.36 Displaying and propagating these thoughts had to be treated
as outright sedition.37 A special aspect of supernatural healing also pertains to
Christianity proper - the expulsion of demons from possessed individuals.
Descriptions of such exorcisms are relatively rare, but nevertheless illustrate how
powerful a conversion tool they could be.38
Finally, there was a distinct category of syncretic popular beliefs engendered
by intellectuals, such as Lin Zhaoen (1517-1598), whose writings drew a large
following from among the populace in cities as well as from the surrounding
countryside.39 Eccentric members of the elite, in addition to failed scholar-officials
who needed a new avenue for their ambitions, resorted to lecturing a mostly rural
public. The “petty intelligentsia” enjoyed the trust of the peasantry, and furthermore
 (Calling at
the wind, calling for rain ... His curses could fell big trees .... Establishing heretical teachings and
confounding the populace [by using] books and pictures, storing weapons at home and using the title of
a general ... and all of this in mountainous terrain, where it is hazardous to travel). See Shiliao xunkan
, section ‘Heaven’ , volume 17, pp. 606-607, and also volume 12, pp. 373/4 for
similar official language, this time relating to the Taitian  and Sansheng sects.
36 Such as the monks immortalised through the “Case file on the selling of amulets and the marketing of
medical substances by the Buddhist monks Guang Xing, et al. of Yizhou”
 (1769, Zhili Province) or the case against the
“Gathering of crowds through the spreading of evil rumours in Zezhou, Shanxi Province”
of 1729. Cf. Shiliao xunkan , section ‘Heaven’ ,
volume 10, p. 339 and volume 9, pp. 295-301, respectively. An interesting connection between rural
unrest emanating from drought and harvest failures, and the desire for supernatural help (through
sorcery) is made in Ma Zhao, “Shilun Qianlong shiqi (1736-1796) chajin tianzhujiao shijian”, p. 32. Ma
Zhao continues to illustrate the (temporary) interrelationship between tax riots and religious mass
movements, but maybe more tenuously. Ibidem, pp. 32-33.
37 As in the case from the capital of YZ 8 (1730), reported in Shiliao xunkan , section
‘Heaven’ , volume 5, pp. 142-146. The memorialising officials are struck by the “madness” of
displaying “seditious characters” on the door-posts (
38 See Léonide Guiot, La Mission du Su-tchuen au XVIIIme siècle, pp. 235-242 for the account of a
tormented young girl, who is liberated from her evil occupants by the exorcism performed by Mgr.
Pottier.
39 Cf. Ma Xisha and Han Bingfang, Zhongguo minjian zongjiaoshi, pp. 9-10. See also the memorials on
discovery of Christian printshops in QL 48 (1783), reprinted in Shiliao xunkan , section
‘Heaven’ , volume 3, p. 98.
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had access to the local printing blocks.40 Both advantages were frequently exploited in
order to spread beliefs encouraging or running counter to rumours about particular
religious communities. Mendicant monks from Buddhist monasteries had been the
focus of popular speculations for centuries. Such priests were habitually ridiculed as
lacking in intelligence and ordinary human feelings.41 But at times, such as during the
eighteenth century, itinerant monks were also feared: Rumours circulated through
terrified tracts of countryside that monks had cast spells on the inhabitants and the
livestock of villages which they passed through. In certain regions, such rumours
ignited sheer mass paranoia, with dangerous consequences for any of the assumed
culprits.42 For the nineteenth century, this group of small town and village
intellectuals played a definitive role in the thousands of confrontations between rural
communities and Christian missionaries, providing ammunition for rumours such as
baby-snatching, immoral acts between adults of both genders and children, and the
extraction of eyes for alchemical purposes.43 During this period, the state turned
rumours about nefarious practices attributed to Western missionaries, such as the
eating of babies and the use of their eyes for magical potions, into a powerful
40 The term “petty intelligentsia” (xiaozhishifenzi ) is mostly used in an urban,
twentieth century context. But in an expanded sense, this social group also existed during the late
imperial period, encompassing commoners with special skills (yamen scribes, public letter writers),
monks and itinerant professionals (such as doctors, merchants and actors). See David Strand, Rickshaw
Beijing, pp. 168-170. For a brief introduction to the development and relevance of Chinese printing see
Frances Wood, Chinese Illustration, London: British Library 1985, as well as B. Elman, From
Philosophy to Philology, pp. 140-159 (on book publishing in the Jiangnan).
41 Renqing - mostly referring to the desire to found a family. See Meir Shahar, Crazy Ji Chinese Religion and Popular Literature, Cambridge / Massachusetts: Harvard University Press 1998,
p. 37 ff.
42 Graphically illustrated by Philip A. Kuhn in Soulstealers - The Chinese Sorcery Scare of 1768,
Cambridge / Massachusetts: Harvard University Press 1990.
43 See Cheng Xiao and Zhang Ming, “Wanqing xiangshehui de yangjiaoguan” (“The Perception of
Christianity by Village Society”), pp. 108-116. See also an episode from the year 1732, referring to
popular rumours about the nature of extreme unction, as reported in F. Margiotti, Il cattolicismo nello
Shansi, p. 366.
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propaganda tool.44 The sheer number of foundlings baptised - and adopted into
Christian orphanages if they survived - was sufficient to give rise to such rumours. For
the year 1806 alone, the missionaries in the province of Sichuan reported nearly 7,000
baptisms of foundlings, as opposed to 1,371 adult christenings and 1,760 baptisms of
infants.45 The popular attraction of “sorcery” was a potential waiting to be utilised by
sectarian leaders wishing to explore untrodden paths for the recruitment of disciples.
Less than two generations later, the charismatic leader of a popular movement which
nearly destroyed the ruling Qing, would also derive his inspiration from such
“revelations”. Visions were indeed a common feature of popular religiosity, a
potential source of attraction waiting to be exploited.46 The man in question, Hong
Xiuquan, used his rudimentary grasp of Christian theology to create his
own spirituality, which was to form the basis of the ideology of the millenarian
Taiping movement.47
44
Rumours about “hairy demons” rapaciously internalising the vital organs of boys and girls, and
sometimes their whole bodies, had deep roots in certain areas of China. The imperial histories of the
Tang and Song furthermore report of popular self-defence movements against allegedly sighted “hairy
men”. The parallels between the perception of Westerners in nineteenth century China and these ancient
beliefs are obvious. A thorough investigation into the cultural connotations of bodily hair can be found
in Frank Dikötter, The Discourse of Race in Modern China, London: Hurst 1992, pp. 14-15, 44-47 and
138-142. See also his contribution “Racial Discourse in China: Continuities and Permutations”, in: F.
Dikötter and B. Sautman (eds), The Construction of Racial Identities in China and Japan, London:
Hurst 1997, pp. 16 and 17.
45 These figures derive from the Vicar Apostolic Dufresse, and refer to the 53 Christian communities
visited by him in Sichuan province. Most of the found children died within days - which also meant that
they disappeared from public view and entered the world of popular imagination. Cf. APF file SC,
series III, Cina et Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, ff. 207-208. See also Pierre Heude SJ, La compagnie de
Jésus en Chine - Le Kiang-nan en 1869, Paris: E. de Soye 1870, p. 11: Car la plus grande accusation
qui pèse sur nous, c’est que nous mangeons les enfants, et qu’avec les yeux et leur coeur nous faisons
des pillules au moyen desquelles nous ensorcellons le public, spécialement les femmes.
46 A general introduction to the theme of popular religious traditions can be found in Pieter Hendrick
Vrijhof and Jacques Waadenburg, Official and Popular Religion - Analysis of a Theme for Religious
Studies, The Hague: Houton 1979. See also the - hitherto unpublished - conference papers of the annual
conference of the British Association for Chinese Studies, London 6 September 2000, devoted to the
theme(s) of “Dreams and Inspiration” in Chinese culture.
47 The connection between Christianity and Taiping ideology has been explored by Eugene Powers
Boardman, Christian Influence upon the Ideology of the Taiping Rebellion, 1851-1864, New York:
Octagon Books 1964 and more recently, by Rudolf G. Wagner, in Reenacting the Heavenly Vision: The
Role of Religion in the Taiping Rebellion, Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies 1984. See also
Robert P. Weller, Unities and Diversities in Chinese Religion, Basingstoke / London: MacMillan 1987.
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The above examples allow us to distil the ideological essence of the vehement
opposition of the scholar-official elite to the leaders of popular religious movements.
Both groups utilised ritual conventions in order to emphasise the claim of having been
endowed with the celestial authority to rule. Leaders of millenarian movements as
well as hermitic masters of black magic routinely fulfilled rituals illustrating their role
of pontifex between a supreme cosmic order and the human world, the power to heal
illnesses and to eradicate earthly misery, as well as the ability to perform miracles.
The Confucian-educated elite, in an extension of the emperor’s role as the “fatherand-mother” of the people, perceived itself as “natural rulers” sanctioned by Heaven.
In parallel fashion to the leaders of popular cults, the scholar-officials thus claimed to
hold the key for the implementation of an ideal celestial order, if only the people
would allow the imperial government to do so, abandoning the superstitious rituals
which led innocent countryfolk astray from the righteous path.48 The explanation for
the conflict between sectarian leaders and state officials thus lies in the overlap of
perceived functions, creating an intense competition for support among the populace.
Christianity, during most of the period in question, formed an integral part of the
“sectarian” side of this rivalry. The Confucian state regarded the Christian attempts to
heal the rift between the Master of Heaven and the sinful earthlings, as well as the
clergy’s dealings in surgery and pharmaceutics, as equally harmful methods of
winning the hearts of simple-minded villagers. As a powerful competitor to the
For more details concerning the "charismatic" elements of Shangdihui and Taiping see
Wang Qingcheng , Tianfu tianxiong shengzhi  (“Sacred edicts by the
Celestial
Father
and
Celestial
Elder
Brother”),
Liaoning
renmin
chubanshe
1986, p. 18 as well as Hou Jie and Fan Lizhu, Zhongguo minzhong zongjiao
yishi, pp. 297-298.
48 Stephan Feuchtwang has provided a detailed and thematic analysis of the sacrificial duties of state
officials, distinguishing between Great (dasi ), Middle (zhongsi ) and Common Sacrifice
(qunsi  ). See S. Feuchtwang, “School-Temple and City God”, in: G. William Skinner, The City
in Late Imperial China, Stanford: Stanford University Press 1977, pp. 585-587.
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scholar-officials, Christianity had thus become an integral part of the religious
movements perceived as a menace to the rule of the scholar-official elite.
3. Death and afterlife
In the first section of this chapter we reached the conclusion that popular
religious life functioned without the concepts of “sin” and “redemption”, two pillars
of Christian theology. Late imperial religion was however strongly influenced by
popular interpretations of Buddhism which provided an elaborate transcendental
system for rewarding the good and for punishing wickedness. Some teachings, such as
one sixteenth century rival of the Luo cult, offered their disciples the prospect of being
reborn into Heaven, after a symbolic period of rest.49 An evil earthy life could be
atoned for by going through a subterranean purgatory (the “earth prison”
diyu).50 The sinner’s sentence was seen as commensurate with the total balance
of one’s good deeds and sins, which were summed up by a member of the infernal
bureaucracy just as a merchant would list credit and debit notes on his balance sheet.51
For a time-span of cosmic duration, the sinner was then allocated one of the various
49
See D. Overmyer, Precious Volumes, pp. 211-212. The baojuan referred to here is the Xiaoshi
yuanjue baojuan (“The precious volume that explains complete enlightenment”,
reprinted in ibidem, appendix H, text 3, pp. 311-312).
50 For the influence of Buddhism and Daoism on popular notions of hell, cf. Hou Jie and Fan Lizhu,
Zhongguo minzhong zongjiao yishi, p. 145, as well as Anne Swann Goodrich, Chinese Hells: The
Peking Temple of Eighteen Hells and Chinese Conceptions of Hell, St. Augustin: Monumenta Serica
1981. Henri Doré, Recherches sur les superstitions en Chine (vol. VI): Le Panthéon Chinois, Shanghai
1914 systematically introduces the numerous celestial and infernal officials populating afterlife.
51 “Points” could be gained by leading a meritorious life (gong ), whereas evil thoughts and deeds
(guo ) brought infernal retribution. See Wolfram Eberhard, Guilt and Sin in Traditional China, p.
19 ff. Some of his ideas are reiterated in Wolfram Eberhard, Moral and Social Values of the Chinese Collected Essays, Taibei: Ch’engwen Publications 1971. Nicolas Standaert sees such considerations as
a reflection of life in the world of the living - an observation not exclusive to Chinese culture. See N.
Standaert, “Chinese Christian Visits to the Underworld”, p. 65.
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levels52 of hell whence he was only to emerge prematurely due to divine interference.
One tradition of popular Buddhism, which had developed during the late Ming period,
was a system of “reward-and-punishment”, which resulted in points accumulated in
ledgers.53 The positive contributions to such “ledgers of good and evil deeds” (gongguo ge ) could, in the event of post-mortal judgement, be counted towards
the total balance of transgressions, leading to dismissal into Nirvana or to a shortening
of the infernal sentence.54 Fear of the prospect of falling into the hands of infernal
bureaucrats led to elaborate precautionary measures, which often merged with ancient
superstitions. Christian missionaries, both of Chinese and of European origin, stressed
the reward of “being elevated to Heaven” (shengtian ), following a life of
Christian ritual observance. A “good Christian” was understood to have been baptised,
and to have attended the Eucharist in order to attain “purity”, and as a pre-condition
for a celestial afterlife.55 Other conditions varied according to the interpretations of the
52
The hierarchies of infernal suffering, exemplified through the Taishan Shiwang baojuan
 in D. Overmyer, Precious Volumes, 240-247 and 251-255, seem indeed
reminiscent of Dante Alleghieri’s Inferno - possibly born out of the desire to establish justice after
departing from a world where the rights of the common people are all too often abused. The
transcendental statisticians of the Taiping state followed earlier traditions by promulgating the existence
of 33 levels of heaven and of 18 hells. See Hou Jie and Fan Lizhu, Zhongguo minzhong zongjiao yishi,
pp. 180-181. Hong Xiuquan’s “Great Eastern Road” also envisaged 36 Caves opening towards Heaven
(dong-tian ) and 72 Auspicious Places (fudi ). See R. G. Wagner, Reenacting the
Heavenly Vision, p. 47 ff.
53 Popularised by the influential monk Zhuhong (1535-1615), whose “Record of selfunderstanding” (Zizhi lu ) became greatly successful during the late Ming period. See R. H.
C. Shek, “Religion and Society”, p. 134 ff. Zhuhong was also among the first Buddhists to publish
refutations against the arguments of Christian missionaries. His pamphlet Tianshuoin turn
became the object of Jesuit refutations. See Dudink, “The Sheng-ch’ao tso-p’i”, p. 109, note 52.
54 The gong-guo ge phenomenon is explained in great detail in Cynthia Brokaw, The Ledgers of Merit
and Demerit - Social Change and Moral Order in Late Imperial China, Princeton: Princeton University
Press 1985.
55 See, for instance, the testimonies delivered on behalf of five Portuguese missionaries arrested in the
1750s for establishing contact with Chinese Christians. Filed as FHA, scroll 9258, original document
492, sub-number 8, frame 306. The yamen scribe noted that “Christians use oil and salt for purification
and exaltation. Christian doctrine demands that water be sprinkled on people’s heads as an act of ritual
purification for the Lord of Heaven, and the use of wine and bread ... so that people can ascend to
Heaven
following
their
death.”
(
). From the correspondence of Mgr Pottier we learn that
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Christian doctrine by local church elders, but were always regarded as being subject to
the ultimate judgement of the Christian Lord of Heaven. In certain sources reflecting
popular Christian beliefs, the concept of the gong-guo ge is clearly visible.56 This
pattern of reward for an earthly life of ritual compliance coincided with late imperial
popular practice, where both the infernal and the celestial afterlife were governed by a
strictly hierarchised body of the Yellow Emperor’s officials.57 Images of hell and
purgatory, vividly described by Mediterranean missionaries of rural background,
served to complement this panoply of punishment and torture.58 It is, in fact,
documented that preachers describing the trials of hell attracted large audiences, and
eventually converts.59 The Christian missionaries thus fitted the mould of popular
Buddhist proselytisation.60 Letters sent by Western missionaries back to Europe
confirm that many missionaries, such as Philip Huang educated at the Collegio de’
Cinesi in Naples, had acquired a fiery style of preaching, which was seen as the result
of emulating the almost operatic sermons performed on the public squares of southern
Italy during the eighteenth century. These parallels helped to attract converts, but also
blurred the distinctions between the two religious systems. For the descendants of
grape wine was imported via Macau, since rice wines were not recognised as permissible for the
Eucharist. See Léonide Guiot, La Mission du Su-tchuen au XVIIIme siècle, pp. 186-187.
56 The anonymous Tianzhu shenpan mingzheng (“A clear proof of judgement by
the Master of Heaven”) is one such example. See Nicolas Standaert, “Chinese Christian Visits to the
Underworld”, p. 61.
57 Readers of Journey to the West encounter concrete examples of this post-mortal bureaucracy in
Monkey’s descent to Hell. See Wu Cheng’en (1500-1582), Xiyouji , first
published around 1570. See also the English translation by W. J. F. Jenner, Journey to the West,
Beijing: Foreign Languages Press 1984.
58 See Giacomo di Fiore, Lettere di Missionari dalla Cina (1761-1775), pp. 94-95.
59 The archives of the Congregation of the Sacred Family in Naples provide clear evidence, such as in
the letters sent from China by the Chinese disciple Philip Huang of the Roman procurator for Macau,
Emiliano Palladini. Excerpts are reprinted in G. Di Fiore, “Emiliano Palladini e i missionari del
Collegio dei Cinesi”, “Emiliano Palladini e i missionari del Collegio dei Cinesi”, in: F. d’Arelli and A.
Tamburello, La Missione Cattolica in Cina, pp. 263-264.
60 See Philip A. Kuhn, Soulstealers, p. 105 ff.
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missionary converts, the subtleties setting Christian concepts of afterlife apart from
those of rival cults must have seemed even fainter.61
Funerary rituals had diverse functions: To express the children’s piety towards
their deceased parents, to tie the village community more closely together, and to
provide the spiritual precautions for the deceased soul’s passage into the unknown.
Adherence to the conventions of funerary ritual formed a crucial part of the process of
social identification - often made to coincide with the coming of age of the younger
generation, but also an important occasion for accepting outsiders into the village
community.62 Participating in these communal rituals of their local society at times
proved to be a problem for Chinese Christians - even before the Vatican’s verdict on
the Rites Controversy.63 One of the most persistent problems, in this context, was the
question of whether heathens should be invited to Christian funerals. Should they then
be allowed to kow-tow in front of a Christian’s ancestral tablet, or perform even more
outspoken examples of gentile practices prohibited to Christians? After all, it is
recorded that great numbers of gentiles participated in the funerary procession of the
61
See F. Margiotti, Il cattolicismo nello Shansi, pp. 442-446 for examples of conflicts caused by
religious processions. The documents consulted for this thesis, however, seem to indicate that such
conflicts were not commonplace during the eighteenth century.
62 This refers in particular to the custom of the entire village population “coming out together” after
seven days of mourning, in an act of collective grief. Similarly, the villagers mark the day of their dead
collectively on the occasion of the Qingming festival. Regular fasting and a well-publicised
reverence for the beliefs and customs of the dead perpetuated a pretence that the deceased was still part
of the community of the living. Occasionally, this would be taken to extremes by “infernal weddings”
(minghun ) arranged for deceased bachelors and spinsters. For more information on the
relationship between family and village rituals, see David Jordan, Gods, Ghosts, and Ancestors, pp.
134-138. Jordan has more on “ghost marriages” and “spirit brides” on pp. 140-155 (see also the picture
of two “spirit brides” on p. 145). A general background can be found in James L. Watson and Evelyn S.
Rawski, Death Ritual in Late Imperial and Modern China, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London:
University of California Press 1988, in particular in the chapters by James L. Watson (“The Structure of
Chinese Funerary Rites: Elementary Forms, Ritual Sequence, and the Primacy of Performance”, pp. 319 and “Funeral Specialists in Cantonese Society: Pollution, Performance and Social Hierarchy”, pp.
109-134), Susan Naquin (“Funerals in North China: Uniformity and Variation”, pp. 37-70) and Rubie
S. Watson, (“Remembering the Dead: Graves and Politics in Southeastern China”, pp. 203-227).
63 See F. Margiotti, Il cattolicismo nello Shansi, pp. 437-442 for examples of communal conflict
ignited by the refusal of Christians to contribute to “pagan” festivals and the upkeep of religious sites.
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Jesuit Verbiest (1623-1688).64 This would have paid tribute to Ferdinand Verbiest’s
ability to captivate the attention of curious non-believers, a skill the missionary had
used on various occasions during his life-time to win over converts from among the
literati.65 It is likely that a strict interpretation would have entailed a great degree of
intercommunal tension.66 In some areas, heathens were admonished to follow the
Christian funerary rites in public, while they were free to revert to their own customs
privately at home. This concession included the right to celebrate the banquet in
honour of deceased Christians according to established traditions, antedating the entry
of Christianity into the village community. But even here, it is observed, the Christian
families ensured that interment had already been fully completed. It seems self-evident
that this practice arose out of the Christians’ fear that the soul of the deceased family
member could somehow be “infected” by pagan rites, if it was not given several days’
opportunity to vacate its earthly vessel.67 In a similar vein, reverential pictures of dead
parents of could be found in many Christian homes. These may well have had a
similar dual function as the ancestral tablets and funerary customs reformed by the
Christian missionaries: Expressions of twofold loyalties, in a world where the old
The Jesuits, ever keen to integrate, preferred to adopt a neutral view on this issue. A brief discussion of
and bibliographic introduction to the Rites Controversy can be found on pp. 33, 46 and passim.
64 See the Nouveaux Mémoires sur l’État present de la Chine, par le P. Louis le Comte de la
Compagnie de Jésus, Mathématicien du Roy, Paris 1694, p. 109 ff. The description is critical of the
gentiles’ motives for attending Verbiest’s funeral, but acknowledges their interest in the event as such marked by a long defilé of Christian mourners, all dressed in white. Copies of the Nouveaux Mémoires
are held at the Beitang collection (shelf mark 3329) and at the British Library. F. Margiotti, in Il
cattolicismo nello Shansi, pp. 537-538, explains the popularity of Verbiest in part as the result of his
attempts to provide a dignified funeral even for the poorest of the poor.
65 In so doing, Verbiest paved the way for the benevolent interest of the Kang-xi emperor. See John W.
Witek, Ferdinand Verbiest (1623-1688): Jesuit Missionary, Scientist, Engineer and Diplomat, Nettetal:
Steyler Verlag 1995, p. 309 ff.
66 Referred to by Delgado, quoting a belligerent manifestation of Jesus in the gospels, as “bringing the
sword and not harmony” (Non veni pacem mittere, sed gladium). Cf. APF SC, series III, Cina and
Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, folium 146.
67 Ibidem, ff. 146 V and 147 R. Similar beliefs concerning the wellbeing of the deceased - through
libations and banquet-like offerings - could also be encountered in Hellenic society. See Paul Veyne, Le
pain et le cirque: sociologie historique d’un pluralisme politique, Paris: Seuil 1976.
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traditions had not yet given way to Christian orthodoxy. In a letter from the early
nineteenth century, Antonius of Calatia remarked on the continued existence of pagan
funerary rites in his missionary area of Shanxi.68 Most of the European missionaries
seemed to condone their continued use, aware of the adverse effect a blanket ban may
have on the prospect of attracting greater numbers of gentiles to their faith.69 The
absence of such images would invariably be interpreted as a lack of filial piety in the
teachings of the Christians. Any attempt to link the remembrance of the deceased with
propitious (ji ) or malevolent (xiong ) days of the peasant calendar, however,
fell under the clear category of “superstition” - a stigma both the Christian
missionaries and the Confucian literati agreed on.70
As funerary ritual was inextricably interwoven with the notion of decent social
behaviour, any attempt to distil individual “spiritual aspects” would distort the overall
importance of the event. It is indeed more appropriate to refer to the rites as a twofold
celebration of family-bound ancestral continuity and of village-oriented social
continuity.71 A delicate problem faced the European missionaries when they had to
arbitrate in cases affecting the foundations of Chinese family morals. Of late
eighteenth century Shanxi we learn that unmarried sons and daughters were buried
outside the burial grounds of the family. This was linked to the belief that they had not
contributed to the continuation of the lineage, and that they were thus not worthy of
68
Calatia, 26 October 1806. See APF SC, series III, Cina and Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, f. 174.
A hotly contested issue during the Rites Controversy. The “abolitionist” Francisco M. Garretto
(OFM) advocated in 1731 that all tablets should be burnt, and that dying Christians be made to sign a
written statement, attested by the heads of their Christian community, which obliged their sons not to
erect any tablets for their departed souls. F. Margiotti, Il cattolicismo nello Shansi, pp. 459-460 and
464-465.
70 Delgado attempted to reason that it was “not the days which were bad, but whatever was done during
these days” (Neque enim dies mali sunt, sed ea quae fiunt in eis). Cf. APF SC, series III, Cina and
Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, folium 147.
69
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being offered a proper funeral service. Another problem arose out of the fact that
Christians who were buried in the same sepulchres as their pagan ancestors were
bound to be subjected to the same pagan commemorative rites. The segregation and
desegregation, respectively, of Christian family members was hence a twilight area
where European advice often failed to gain the approval of the local population.72
Missionaries further aggravated their situation by insisting that converts were to hold
their funerary celebrations separately from the non-Christian villagers. In their zeal for
religious purity the missionaries thus risked conflict within the families and within the
wider village communities.73 Despite a fundamental lack of comprehension
concerning the missionaries’ concept of “sin”, China’s Christians accepted the notions
of infernal punishment almost instantaneously. This can only be explained against the
background of pre-existing images in folk religion, and should thus be regarded as a
religious interface which facilitated the inculturation of Christianity to the religious
life of late imperial China. Whereas most Christian commoners may have accepted
such popular Buddhist concepts in order to flesh out their own vague understanding of
what to expect after the moment of death, the funerary rites for a deceased family
member belonged into a different category. Rites governing burial and
commemoration cemented the ties of the village unit and also - as a consequence of
the Song-Ming School’s educational crusade - with the Confucian state. To insist on
separate rites for the members of the Christian community could be interpreted as an
act of social sabotage, regardless of the religious connotations. Following the official
71
The doppio funerale is referred to by Lionello Lanciotti in his introduction to the religious beliefs of
the Chinese. See “La religiosità dei cinesi”, in Francisco d’Arelli and A. Tamburello, La Missione
Cattolica in Cina, 1995, pp. 3-4.
72 Cf. the report by Emmanuele Conforti of 1798, in B. Willeke, “The Report of the Apostolic
Visitation”, p. 262.
73 ... a concern reflected in a letter of 1806 by Joseph Nunez Ribeira, “Bishop of Ipasa”, to the
Propaganda Fide; APF SOCP, Indie Orientali, 1806-1811, folium 19 V.
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end of the Rites Controversy, the grave implications of complying with the Vatican’s
prohibition caused a split in China’s Christian communities. The documents consulted
for this thesis suggest that the decision, in the final analysis, depended on the will of
the local Christians to either create a strong separate communal identity or to remain
part of a functioning greater entity. The social dynamics of Christian communities
were hence in no way different from that of other popular cults.
4. Materialism and superstition - attitudes towards religious discipline
Non-metaphysical, materialistic thinking - one of the hallmarks of Chinese
popular philosophy - was certainly influenced by official attempts to spread Confucian
scepticism towards the transcendental. Anti-spiritual propaganda also exploited a
tendency towards fatalism within popular Chinese culture.74 Popular fatalism rested
on the belief that life was governed by celestial influence, and that Heaven’s will
needed to be interpreted and predicted by means of ‘human bridges’ - sorcerers,
soothsayers and astronomers. If Heaven did not show its benevolence, individuals,
families and at times entire village communities would go to visit holy sites of
Buddhist and animistic origin. Once the reason for the religious exercise had
disappeared, however, the villagers would stay at home, without paying too much
attention to previously approached deities.75
The all-pervading materialism engrained in Chinese culture can be directly
attributed to China’s agrarian roots: The desire for an even spread of rain and
Documented, for instance, in this verse found in the Book of Poetry (Shijing ): “The Mighty
Heaven serves no purpose, Mighty Heaven has no wisdom” (). Cf.
B. Karlgren, The Book of Odes, Stockholm: Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities 1950, chapter 194, “Yu
wu zheng” , pp. 140-142.
75 See also his observations on religious life in rural China, in Fei Xiaotong, Peasant Life in China: A
Field Study of Country Life in the Yangtse Valley, London: Routledge and Kegan 1939, pp. 99-105.
74
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sunshine, for a balanced agricultural cycle, for abundant resources of cattle and grain
encouraged prayers to those representatives of the spiritual world in charge of the
elements. On a socio-psychological plane, the desire for children, for sons in
particular, and for protection of the family’s health and material well-being induced
individuals to pray to those gods most likely to be effective in matters of heart and
womb. The popular religions of the late imperial period proffered two candidates for
this function: The Boddhisattva Guanyin as well as the immaculate virgin-mother of
the Christian god.76 To the average tiller, the differences between Mary and Guanyin,
if at all perceived, would probably have appeared insignificant.77 Worship of these
two popular saints followed the same pattern applied to the other members of the
popular pantheon: Not primarily through devotion to the spiritual quality of the
particular deity, but with the intention of obtaining concrete support for the praying
individual.78 Therefore it does not seem surprising that many of the first missionary
churches were know as “Hall for the [veneration of the] Holy Mother” (Shengmutang
).79 It is important to remember that the religious identity of the sacrificial
location was always considered less important than the fact that supernatural beings
had been asked for help. If quality did not matter then quantity certainly did: The more
76
For a devotional depiction of Mary in the guise of the Bodhisattva Guanyin (“la Madonna cinese”),
see Pasquale M. D'Elia, Le origini dell'arte cristiana cinese (1583-1640), Rome: Accademia Reale
d'Italia 1939, p. 51. References to “Buddha statues” (foxiang ) in official documents suggest
that Buddhist influence on Christian iconography was not uncommon. See, for instance, the memorial
referred to on p. 163 (scroll 9258, original document 492, sub-number 17, frames 324-330).
77 This is at least Stephen Turnbull’s conclusion concerning the popularity of the Maria-Kannon (i.e.
Guanyin) double-deity. See S. Turnbull, Devotion to Mary, p. 10 and idem, The Kakure Kirishitan of
Japan, pp. 104-110 (on the worship of saint figures, gozensama). In this context the popularity of
another female deity deserves to be mentioned, i.e. that of the Eternal Venerable Mother Wusheng
Laomu . With the publication of the Dragon Flower Sutra (Longhuajing ),
the image of a kind-hearted, compassionate grandmother figure began permeate popular culture. See R.
H. C. Shek, “Religion and Society”, p. 302 ff. For emotional descriptions by pilgrims to sites dedicated
to Guanyin on Putuo Shan, see Chün-fang Yü, “P’u-t’o Shan”, pp. 218-219.
78 The early nineteenth-century Protestant convert Liang Fa , formerly himself a Guanyin
devotee, vigorously attacked the popular worship of female deities such as the Bodhisattva Guanyin and
the Gold Flower Lady (Jinhua furen ). See Kwok Pui-lan, Chinese Women and
Christianity, p. 10, as well as pp. 52-57 (on the popularity of female gods in popular religiosity).
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gods could be asked for protection, the higher the likelihood of a positive response.80
Already Matteo Ricci, converter of the elite, had observed the concretely utilitarian, at
times hedonistic and unrespecting character of Chinese spirit worship. For the
missionaries of the nineteenth century the very same phenomenon was reflected in the
form of “Rice Christianity” - converts flocking into the parish halls whenever the
material situation was opportune, and quite happily leaving for Buddhist and other
temples if the chance of divine intervention there seemed given.81
Apostasy - the Biblical “Sin against the Holy Spirit” and the unpardonable
betrayal against a beleaguered Christendom - was very often the only logical escape
route for Christians who found themselves in conflict with the authorities. In a variety
of documents, we are confronted with the paradox of Chinese Christians displaying
genuinely Chinese patterns of religio-social behaviour at the very moment of
perceived apostasy. Or rather, what was perceived in the European tradition as the
touchstone issue of religious loyalty during martyrdom and tribulations by the earthly
rulers was treated by Chinese Christians with the same levity as polytheistic
worship.82 Already the first Western missionaries observed that converts returned in
79
See F. Margiotti, Il cattolicismo nello Shansi, p. 299.
Despite its size and regional diversities, some deities are worshipped throughout China (and eastern
Asia), such as the god Lüzu , who was obliged to respond to prayers. His equivalent in China’s
ports is the - female - Mazu, the popular expression of the Celestial Empress Tianhou ƒΖ.
Such gods shared their popularity with other protective figures, most prominently the Venerable Mother
Laomu , the Bodhisattva Guanyin Guanyin pusa, the Dragon King Longwang
 and the three Guardian Warrior Spirits displayed on doorposts, theSanguanshen .
See S. Feuchtwang, “School-Temple and City God”, pp. 583-584.
81 The term was used in a letter by Pottier in the statement “ils apprennent la manière de manger le riz
et les cérémonies...” See Léonide Guiot, La Mission du Su-tchuen au XVIIIme siècle, p. 141.
82 An obvious exception to this rule is the well-known case of the Fu’an Christians, who accompanied
their arrested European priests and tearfully swore never to abandon their faith, at whatever price: “Our
generation will suffer for the Lord , and not repent even when faced with death”
(). The Fu’an case is described in a memorial by Gioro
Yarhashan , of QL 11/8/2 (16 September 1746), and preserved in the Palace
Memorials Annotated by the Emperor (Gongzhong zhupi zouzhe ), volume 292,
no 1. See Ma Zhao, Shilun Qianlong shiqi (1736-1796) chajin tianzhujiao shijian, p. 35.
80
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droves to their old gods in times of persecution, even if their images had been
destroyed by converts in their first zeal.83 In many ways, Christians regarded apostasy
as a temporary withdrawal aimed at securing the physical existence of the individual
believer and of his or her family. The absence of a tradition of glorified martyrdom
indubitably encouraged this mode of thinking. As a “tactical retreat” employed during
interrogations by state officials, it could not merely save the bodily life of the captive
Christian, but could also preserve Christianity as a communally practised religion
within family, village and peer group beyond the immediate moment of persecution.84
The astounding ease which accompanied apparent apostasies is documented in a
memorial presented to the Jiaqing throne in 1805.85 The culprits, the Blue Banner
officers Tong Lan, Shuminseke and Li Qingxi, as well as dozens of their family
members, had been demoted and singled out for punishment by the paramount
military official Eledengbao.86 The memorial begins with a summary account by the
“faith offenders”, stating the reasons as to why they thought of themselves as
Christians. The confession simply states that both individuals had followed the
religion of their ancestors, the oldest of whom had become a Christian “three
generations ago”, i.e. prior to the edict of 1724. As a clearly mitigating circumstance,
It is perhaps also noteworthy that Japan’s Hidden Christians made the worship of the Tokugawa martyrs
a central piece of their religious veneration, believing the martyred Christians to have been transformed
into kami . See S. Turnbull, The Kakure Kirishitan of Japan, pp. 111-115 and 133-137. During the
course of the Japanese persecutions, captive Korean Christians soon became renowned for their
steadfastness. For examples, see J. Ruiz-de-Medina / Bridges, 1991, pp. 299-315 (martyrdom of Kaun
Vicente), pp. 324-325 (Korean Christian “Isabel”) et passim.
83 See F. Margiotti, Il cattolicismo nello Shansi, p. 150.
84 Ibidem, p. 478, note 114, refers to an APF document (letter of 27 September 1736 by Gabriele [of
Turin , OFM] to Arcangelo Miralta [CRM]), stating that an entire Christian community who had
apostatised under pressure only days before, congregated in a remote area, where they had invited Pater
Gabriele to administer the sacraments in the security of the local caves.
85 See the memorial by the Hanlin academician Dong Gao to the Jiaqing emperor, on JQ 10/5/19, i.e.
16 June 1805. FHA, scroll 9260, original document 498, sub-number 46, frames 755-780.
86 See ibidem, frames 746-754. For an analysis of other memorials by Eledengbao ,
Guang Xing, Pusabaoand Fusejianecha see also pp. 260 ff. and
303 ff. For an abridged account of Eledengbao’s (Eldemboo) eventful life see A. Hummel, Eminent
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Dong Gao quotes the statement that “there had been no other teachers” than their
ancestors (wulingyou shifu ). Taking one’s fathers and grandfathers
seriously was hence in this context if not laudable, then at least a “natural” display of
filial piety. Their knowledge of the chief doctrinal elements was clearly limited to
“knowing that the Celestial Lord urged people to behave well” (tianzhu quan ren
xinghao
).
No
information
about
Christianity’s
illegal
classification had reached the accused - a statement emphasised by the confession that
they had been “unable to awaken from their mental torpor” (weineng xingwu, buken
chujiao ), until alerted by the watchful state officials.
Appealing to the nascent fear of foreign intrusion among Qing officials, they also
pandered to their feeling of rational superiority. They had “succumbed to the
perturbing words of foreigners”, and hence converted to Christianity “with innocent
minds”
(tingshou
xiyangrende
yaohuo,
ganxin
rujiao
). They hence considered themselves guilty
of having “committed a grave transgression” (ziqu zhongzui ) and of
having caused the Banner troops as a whole “to lose face” (gei qiren diulian
). Begging for imperial mercy, the culprits promised to abjure from
the “wicked belief” in all its manifestations. The procedure of apostasy followed the
pattern of earlier persecutions: Verbal promises of abiding by the rules of “Chinese
tradition”, i.e. of attaching door scrolls (duilian ) with non-Christian messages
and of reinstating the suspended ceremonies of ancestral veneration,87 followed by the
Chinese of the Ch’ing period - 1644-1911, Washington: U. S. Government Printing Office 1943, pp.
222-224.
87 F. Margiotti, Il cattolicismo nello Shansi, p. 478 notes the simplicity of apostasy: A verbal
renunciation of Christianity - “Let us renounce the Teaching of the Lord of Heaven” (fan tianzhujiao
), followed by prostrations (kowtow) in front of an image of the Buddha, often sufficed
to satisfy the prosecuting officials. On the importance of door scrolls and other religious symbolisms,
see p. 92 ff of this thesis.
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highly symbolic act of treading the crucifix with one’s feet into the dust (jiaota
shizijia ). If the magistrate believed that the apostates would return
to their old ways once reunited with their family members, he would quite simply
have to trust them that the entire family would abandon their old ways without
exception. In order to prove the seriousness of their request, the accused would invite
the state prosecutors into their homes to verify the irreversible nature of their
apostasy.88
Where the Chinese officials demanded public apostasy as an outward sign of
having renounced the Christian faith, the European missionaries expressed their alarm
at the perceived “lightheartedness” which Chinese Christians showed to matters of
conversion and apostasy. In a letter to the Vatican, Joseph Nunez Ribeira,
representative of the remaining Portuguese missionaries in Beijing, conveyed his
alarm at the high rate of apostasy in the capital, and also at the resilience of ancestral
worship (tabellas superstitiosas) among Beijing’s Christians, more than two
generations after the end of the Rites Controversy.89 We learn in the letter that pious
members of the congregation were frequently put into a difficult situation, as they had
little choice but to share the sacraments with Christians who took their faith less
seriously than expected by the priests. Apostasy also endangered their fellow
believers, who more often than not had to approach the yamen officials with money
collected in order to bail out their erring Christian brethren (scandalosi Christiani).
The “solution” proposed by the bishop was to adopt a system of rewards and
88 Free rendering of:



C
 f. the above FHA, scroll 9260, original document 498,
sub-number 38, frames 756-757, and also the following memorial (sub-number 47) by Dong Gao, dated
JQ 10/6/6, i.e. 2 July 1805 (frames 761-664).
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punishments, which would deny the right to a Christian burial (sepoltura
ecclesiastica) to those “who would die in full awareness of the Mortal Sin” (qui
manifesto peccato mortali moriuntur), but which also provided a simple and dignified
procedure for rejoining the Christian community. The latter consisted of an act of
public repentance (kow-towing in front of the altar and assembled congregation),
followed by a renewal of the baptismal pledge and the supervised removal of the
ancestral tablets.90 In order to improve the chances of obtaining postmortal bliss for
deceased apostates, their nearest of kin were entitled to destroy “superstitious” tablets
on their behalf. Pressure was at times applied to force apostates who had destroyed
Christian tablets in order to replace these with “superstitious” ones to erect tablets
with approved Christian messages.91 The bishop recognised the fact that many
Christians were driven to public, yet non-genuine apostasy through sheer desperation.
Under the threat of physical damage or imprisonment, many preferred to erect
ancestral tablets with “pagan” inscriptions, which they could discard at a later stage,
once the direct menace had passed. This act of self-preservation was usually also of
advantage to the Christian congregation at large, since one “successful” apostasy
reduced the desire among officials to extend their campaign to the rest of the local
89
Ribeira’s letter was sent in 1806. Cf. APF SOCP, Indie Orientali, 1806-1811, folium 19V.
ibidem
91 Examples of model tablets for the veneration of ancestors by Christians, deposited in the OFM
Hankou archives, can be found in Michele Fatica (ed.), Matteo Ripa, Giornale (1705-1724), Vol. II
(1711-1716), pp. 366 ff. Ripa recorded two such model tablets, composed by Bernardino della Chiesa
and by Domingo de Brito. Beneath the text of the latter tablet:

 “Commemorative tablet of the ancestors, in order of sequence, to be
displayed high on top of a door or in a hall: In his tablet rest no spirits, it has been made to let sons and
grandsons pay respect, and though they cannot partake in the offers of food and libations, they will
always be held in filial respect and never be forgotten.” Note that the emphasis of the inscription is
firmly placed on the descendant’s obligation to respect the memory of the ancestors, not the spiritual
well-being of the latter (i.e. no Requiescat in Pace for the deceased).
90
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community.92 What was condemned as a sin beyond redemption by the western
missionaries was hence deemed a rather natural act of self-preservation by their
Chinese contemporaries.93 The fact that the majority of Chinese converts perceived
the threat exerted by office clerks and yamen torturers as more terrifying than the
prospect of forsaking paradise and a Christian graveyard, reveals the obstacles faced
by missionaries originating from a different religious universe.94
The few European missionaries who remained in the empire observed the
“whipped up ocean of China” with despair. Following the persecutions of the
eighteenth century, the congregations had effectively escaped the supervision of the
European missionaries. In the words of a missionary active in the Huguang region:
“Like drifting shoals of fish, they are unable to find the right way”.95 The statement
indicates a significant shift of Christianity away from a religion of external
proselytisation and management to a localised network of Christian ‘cells’ (family
units and larger), increasingly active in marginal regions. Within these largely
autochtonous Christian communities, cultural traditions predating the teachings of the
European missionaries remained strong, forming an alloy of transcendental theology
and earth-bound Chinese peasant beliefs. Visiting European missionaries were
appalled by the perceived lack of spirituality and theological awareness. What the
92
In the bishop’s own words: Inter Christianos lapsos sunt aliqui, qui non erexerunt tabellam
superstitiosam sed satellites, aut parentes gentiles, aut judex ruralis, vel omnes isti simul eam per vim
erexerunt. (“Among the fallen Christians are some who did not [willingly] erect superstitious tablets,
but who [rather] in a subservient way, were forced by their non-Christian parents, by the local judge or
similar factors to erect them.”) Cf. APF SOCP, Indie Orientali, 1806-1811, folium 19V.
93 On the phenomenon of “Consuming religion, not believing in it” (chijiao bu xinjiao
s ee Hou Jie and Fan Lizhu, Zhongguo minzhong zongjiao yishi, pp. 89-104 and
115-126.
94 Similar conclusions, albeit from the viewpoint of late twentieth century urban China, are drawn in
Sun Li “Christianity from the Viewpoint of Young Christians: the Example of Shanghai”, in Philip
Wickeri and Lois Cole, Christianity and Chinese Modernization, pp. 79-89.
95 Pesce vagganti, non possono trovar il retto sentiere. The missionary is Giovanni Antonio di
Pompejana. The letter (29 October 1806, Henceu / Hunan province) is kept at the APF as document SC,
series III, Cina and Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, f. 176V.
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local Christians believed in, according to a letter of 1806 by the missionary apostolic
Giovanni Antonio da Pompejana, was a “minimal faith” which stipulated that by
means of baptism alone salvation could be attained. No other acts of contrition or
meditative reflection were habitually practised by this first category of Christians. A
second category, the source continues, comprised those Christians who were fervent in
their faith, without actually having understood - or being willing to understand - its
basic principles, including the articles of faith and the ten commandments. This latter
type of Christians largely concentrated on reciting common prayers and on meditating
- in the same vein as “idol worshippers”.96 In fact, while celebrating their birthdays
and funerals they paid great attention to certain “pagan” cults, either out of tradition,
or for fear of reprisals from the gentile neighbours. The adherence of both categories
of converts to pre-Christian customs also extended into other areas, mainly affecting
nuptial customs and the practice of usury. Sundays and holidays were not observed as
a matter of course. All in all, the apostolic observer concluded, the Chinese Christians
were pursuing an “empty religion”, their lives focused on the conservation of their
bodies, without any thought for the well-being of their souls.97
If materialist irreverence towards the gods can be described as a hallmark of
popular religious life in the late imperial period, the village population saw no
96
Susan Naquin would presumably classify Christian prayer groups as belonging to the “sutra
recitation” category. See her “Transmission of White Lotus Sectarianism”, pp. 260-274.
97 Free rendering of ... una fede materiale, cioè credendo col solo battismo dio sia placato e sia per
premiarli colla gloria dell paradiso .... La seconda classe e di fevvorosi e buoni, ... che non hanno ...
compreso la dottrina o non hanno voluto comprendere detti dieci commandamienti, contendosi solo di
recitare le consuete preci ed osservare ... nelle loro sale communi versi superstitiosi, ..., dal
gentilissimo nulla affatto distinti, portanto in raggione ... e solo conservarli per essergli stati da gentili
mandati in occasione del loro sêng jé ( comple annos), o nella morte de loro defonti ... e per
timore d’offendere di gentili. ... in una parola, una gente che conserva una religione futtile, che non
vale quattro quattroni, e che per altro non pensa che alla conservazione del proprio corpo, nulla
rammentandosi dell’anima. Letter by Giovanni Antonio “di Pompejana”* (29 October 1806), kept at
the APF as document SC, series III, Cina and Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, f. 177 R/V. *[surname not
recorded, merely his place of birth, the Italian Pompeiana. The cleric adopted the Chinese surname of
Wu and died in 1828.]
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grounds to conceal its belief in spiritual phenomena.98 In a society fundamentally
dependent on the generative forces of nature, it was of existential importance to have
experts capable of interpreting nature (“Heaven”, tian ), and the multitude of
spiritual beings that represented it. The direct worship of Heaven was limited to the
emperor alone.99 The common people had to be content with imploring the concrete
manifestations of nature - the gods, the spirits and ghosts hiding in brooks, trees, the
soil. These experts were experienced communicators with the creatures of the spiritual
world, but also with the abstract force of Heaven, as well as with the human hearts
exposed to its will. The ancient belief in the spiritual medium availed itself to
interpretations of the “high religions” dominating China’s intellectual elite. Thus it
became entwined with Buddhist notions of reincarnation, but also with the
sacramental powers of the Christian priest, bridge builder between the ‘little lives’ of
the peasantry and the almighty Christian god.
“Spirits” (shen ) were popularly venerated, as they comprised the departed
souls (ling ) of beloved relatives and the kinder transcendental forces.100 The
attitude of the common worshipper can be most accurately described as utilitarian:
Any godhead can be approached for help, but without a feeling of obligation; there is
no need to submit oneself to any kind of spiritual discipline. Mirroring social
conventions, sacrificial objects were proffered on the basis of inducing a sense of
reciprocity - just as treating a mortal to dinner would result in the guest’s moral
98
News items from the popular press of the republican period further underline the continuity of
popular beliefs. See, for instance, the Shenbao 22/7/1925 for a report on widespread floodings
around Shanghai, which induced the local population to sacrifice to every godhead known of in the
terrain). Though banished by the Communist government from the contemporary press, similar reports
abound from mainland China.
99 At a yearly ceremony celebrated by the emperor at the Temple of Heaven (Tiantan ), in
Beijing. For more details see Qing Xitai and Tang Dachao, Daojiaoshi, pp. 322-324.
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obligation to respond in kind in the future.101 Prayer (dao ) is firmly fixed on the
problems of the earthly world, usually taken to the spirits in times of concrete need. In
order to maximise the chances of obtaining these earthly needs, prayers are directed at
as many spiritual beings as possible: Buddhist and Daoist saints, Confucian sages,
military heroes, venerated ancestors, manifestations of the natural elements, celestial
bodies - the more in number, the more effective the result.102 State officials mirrored
popular utilitarianism by publicly rewarding “effective” gods (through titles and
inscriptions) and by punishing “lazy” ones (through remonstrations and thrashing).103
For converts to Christianity, the imposition of monotheistic values must have
created a great dilemma. How would the spirits react to no longer being worshipped?
Why was the new god so jealous? And how should Christians react if non-believers
“borrowed” the Christian god and saints in order to enrich their own ritual traditions?
At least one letter preserved in the archives of the Propaganda Fide, blaming the
influence of the “diabolical” Buddhist bonzes, suggests that the Virgin Mary had
joined the panoply of protective spirits and immortals.104 Other sources from the early
100 Spirits (shen ), angels (tianshi or shichen ) and the concept of the Holy Spirit
(shenfeng ) presented the missionary translator with serious dilemmas. These vexations are
illustrated in F. Margiotti, Il cattolicismo nello Shansi, pp. 341 ff.
101 I owe this comparison to Professor Ma Xisha. Readers familiar with Chinese social practice will
have experienced the subtle undertones of obligation (“blackmail”) entailed by agreeing to an invitation
to dinner, at least with more distant acquaintances. David Jordan refers to this practice as “manipulating
the gods”. See Jordan, Gods, Ghosts, and Ancestors, pp. xvii, 85 ff. and 175-176. Parallels with Greek
(theoxenia) and Roman (the cenae deum) customs become evident in Paul Veyne, “La religion grécoromain: Le sacré et le profane”, in: Annales (Histoire, Sciences Sociales), LV-1 (January/February
2000), pp. 20 and 41, respectively.
102 As reflected in the popular saying “It is better to ask many gods than to pray only to one” (qiu
yishen buru qiu duoshen ). The emphasis on utilitarianism is often used
for illustrating the differences between Western monotheism and popular Chinese religion, a view
criticised in Julia Ching, Chinese Religions, London: Macmillan 1993, p. 210. The view is also
discussed in C. K. Yang, Religion in Chinese Society, pp. 3 and 6 ff. A critical view of popular
European religious practice, however, ought to instil a sense of caution: are Catholic prayers not
directed to “all the saints and the Virgin Mary”, for divine intercession?
103 See C. K. Yang, Religion in Chinese Society, pp. 181-182 and pp. 183-186, for the late nineteenth
century.
104 See the letter by Antonius di Calatia (26-8-1806), APF SC, series III, Cina e Regni Adiacenti, 18061811, folium 174R. See also the comments by F. Margiotti, in Il cattolicismo nello Shansi, on p. 539 ff,
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Qianlong period suggest that Mary was being identified with the Unborn Mother of
the West.105 The Mother of God had thus become part of the rural world of spiritual
beings. While spirits were approached as benevolent creatures, “ghosts” (gui )
were dreaded as they reminded the mortals of death - the end of the material life so
cherished in popular culture.106 Fear of ghosts centred on the souls of persons who
departed unnaturally - in captivity, through starvation or execution.107 Fear engendered
the need for self-protection, through sophisticated techniques and rituals: The music,
fire-crackers and theatrical celebrations of the Nuo and Spring festivals, exclusive
congregations of spiritual media (guihui ), as well as the specially prepared
talismans, stamping and writing equipment, red paper umbrellas, protective charms
and doorpost characters, the chants borrowed from Buddhism for warding off evil
influence, endowing children with evil names before their first full month after birth all carried out by Daoist hermits and geomancers and all passed down from the older
concerning the popularity of Mary’s name on doorpost scrolls and in popular culture in general. A clear
parallel is the experience of Japan’s kakure kirishitan, whose Christian symbolism had begun to merge
with elements of local folklore to form a hybrid expression of popular religious culture. For an analysis
of the Tenchi Hajimari (“Creation of Heaven and Earth” ), which contains the essence
of the religious beliefs of the Hidden Christians, see S. Turnbull, Devotion to Mary, 1993, pp. 11-16.
See also the contribution “Acculturation among the Kakure Kirishitan: Some Conclusions from the
Tenchi Hajimari no Koto” by the same author, in Breen and Williams (eds), Japan and Christianity,
1996, pp. 63-74.
105 See Robert E. Entenmann, “Catholics and Society in Eighteenth Century Sichuan”, pp. 12-15.
106 For a full encyclopaedic introduction to the different categories of Chinese ghostdom, see Xu
Hualong , Zhongguo guiwenhua dacidian (“A complete
dictionary of China’s ghost culture”), Guangxi minzu chubanshe (Guangxi
People’s Press) 1994. Popular literature, from ancient tales of fox spirits and hungry ghosts to the ghost
films of Hong Kong cinema, provides a vivid depiction of commonly held - and often contradictory beliefs.
107 Myron Cohen points out the pernicious nature of the “grave soul”, but does not fail to mention that
“most spirits who are ghosts to one person are ancestors to someone else”. See M. L. Cohen, “Souls and
Salvation”, p. 189 (quoting from Arthur P. Wolf, “Gods, Ghosts and Ancestors”, in: Arthur P. Wolf,
Religion and Ritual in Chinese Society, Stanford: Stanford University Press 1973, p. 172). On the
ancient custom of “calling the soul” (zhaohun ) of departed family members, see Stevan Harrell,
“The Concept of Soul in Chinese Folk Religion”, p. 525, as well as Yü Ying-shi, “'O Soul, Come
Back!' A Study in the Changing Conceptions of the Soul and the Afterlife in Pre-Buddhist China”, in:
Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, XLVII- 2 (1987), pp. 381-386 (on differences between pre- and
post-Buddhist concepts of afterlife).
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generation to children and grandchildren.108 Within the all-pervasive cosmos of lucky
charms and protective sorcery, Christian crucifixes, rosaries and saintly statuettes
became an integral part of popular religious culture.109 Fear of ghosts and the
worshipping of spirits by China’s Christian communities further underlines the
theological ambiguity of Christianity during the long century of prohibition.
See Hou Jie and Fan Lizhu, Zhongguo minzhong zongjiao yishi, pp. 210-220.
An example from the earliest period of the Catholic missions in China is the Agnus Dei medallion,
reportedly having the power to calm storms and to extinguish fires. See Dudink, “The Sheng-ch’ao tsop’i”, pp. 113 and 117-119 (in particular note 73).
108
109
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5. Matrimony and filial duty
China’s social traditions depended, during the mid-Qing period, to a large
extent on the patterns of livelihood in the agrarian heartland. Where the rural economy
underwent change, these traditions would in turn also be affected.110 Since the papal
decree declaring the non-compatibility of certain ancestral rites with Christian
doctrine, China’s Christians faced a delicate balance between observing “old”
traditions regarded as vital to the functioning of the village communities, and the
necessity to preserve the “new” cultic stipulations of their own, Christian, community.
The beginning of the eighteenth century ushered in a period of political stability and
economic reconstruction for most provinces of the Qing empire. While its Manchurian
leadership was coming to an arrangement with the literati in the capital and the local
elites, the Qing state developed restructuring programmes for those provinces most
afflicted by the warfare of the Ming-Qing transition, the forays of pro-Ming
freebooters along the south-eastern coast and the Three Feudatories uprising.111 For
the farming community, the simplest response to the demographic depletions caused
by decades of warfare was to promote the natural growth of their families - at least
until the population pressure of the century’s latter half caused a large proportion of
110
This commonplace observation, naturally, also holds true for agrarian societies in general. For more
insight into the functioning of China’s rural society see, for instance, Fei Xiaotong, Peasant Life in
China, in particular the introduction to the nature of the family unit (jia ), pp. 27-55. Jan Myrdal,
Return to a Chinese Village, New York: Pantheon Press 1984 and Hugh D. R. Baker, Chinese Family
and Kinship, London: Macmillan 1979 offer insight into the - political and economic - transformations
of the twentieth century in the Chinese countryside.
111 The main exponent of the mid-Qing reconstruction programme was the Yongzheng emperor, who
made prosperity and social peace the main agenda of his government. Cf. Feng Erkang, Yongzheng
zhuan, pp. 75-85. See also the extensive study of Huang Pei: Autocracy at Work - A Study of the Yungcheng Period, 1723-1735, Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press 1974, especially pp.
226-272. In the last months of the twentieth century, the young emperor was presented by the
Communist authorities as a reformer of historic proportions - akin in his achievements to the late Deng
Xiaoping.
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young men to seek prosperity in other parts of the empire.112 Coupled with the urge
for stability and material abundance, the social values propounded by the educated
elite reinforced the creation of large family structures, as a backbone for society at
large. The imperative of paternal authority and filial responsibility had been taken to
the village squares since the philosophical reform movement had formulated its aims
during the Song and Ming dynasties.113 But during the eighteenth century, the
popularity of such “Confucian” values gathered pace through the creation of lineage
structures, not only within the literati class.114 These structures depended, for the sake
of self-perpetuation, on cults and rites, which tied the different generations into one
entity. We have already examined the importance of funerary rites in this context and
will now look at the beginning of the reproductive cycle - matrimony and birth - in
order to analyse intercommunal coexistence as well as potential areas of conflict for
the Christians of eighteenth century rural China.
The “nuclear question” of cohabitation between Christian converts and the
non-Christian community is defined, by force of human nature, by the degree of
tolerance towards admitting members of the other community to marry into the group.
During the course of Christianity’s development, dogmatic considerations have
usually been subordinate to pre-existing social conventions. The Christian experience
in China presented no exception to this rule. Though future research has yet to
produce directly documented criteria for the marriage customs in rural Christian
communities, we can extrapolate a number of conclusions out of source materials
112
See Ho Ping-ti, Studies on the Population of China, 1368-1953, Cambridge / Massachusetts:
Harvard University Press 1974, pp. 36-64 (for the mid-Qing period in general) and pp. 139-143 (for
developments in Sichuan in particular).
113 On the manifold expressions of the “Neo-Confucian” movement, see Wing-Tsit Chan, A Source
Book in Chinese Philosophy, Princeton: Princeton University Press and Oxford University Press 1969,
and also Lionel M. Jensen, Manufacturing Confucianism, pp. 31-77.
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relating to the issue. The most directly accessible evidence of conflicting interests is
documented in missionary correspondence revealing confusion with respect to
intermarriage. When European priests visited some of the communities theoretically
within the boundaries of their missionary areas, they encountered matrimonial
problems which had been left “scandalously” unresolved pursuant to the stipulations
of Catholic doctrine. A letter by Joseph Milt from the year 1806, for instance,
mentions the case of a divorce between a Christian woman and her non-Christian
husband. The couple had separated from their previous spouses a few years before the
arrival of the travelling missionary, and had remarried in accordance with local
custom. A simple solution for a dogmatically intricate problem.115 The same also
applies to marital problems within the Christian community, which are equally
revealing as far as contemporary social norms are concerned. One request for guidance
in this matter was directed to the Vicar Apostolic Dufresse, who referred to it in a
report on the situation in Sichuan in the first decade of the nineteenth century.116
According to Dufresse, a male Christian had disturbed social harmony by pursuing a
relationship with a much younger cousin. To prevent a potential loss of face, the
Christian decided to “keep the secret in the family” by marrying the disgraced cousin
off to his son - without giving any prior notice to the missionary. After the mismatch
had become public knowledge, the Christians involved begged Dufresse to seek papal
authorisation in order to dissolve the marriage in a Christian way, and without
amplifying the repercussions of the scandal. While it is not clear whether all parties
involved could be referred to as Christians, the fact that papal approval was sought
114
See B. A. Elman, Classicism, Politics, and Kinship, p. 87 ff, on the importance of such lineages for
the perpetuation of religious beliefs.
115 Sent by Joseph Milt on 27 December 1806, from Fujian province. Cf. APF document SC, series III,
Cina et Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, folium 215 R.
116 Dated 9-10-1806. Cf. APF, SC, series III, Cina e Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, ff. 207-208.
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does suggest this possibility. The episode also reveals the powerful position of the
patriarchal tradition in mid-Qing China: A father, who had become entangled in the
web spun by his own inadequacies, being able to force his female victim and his own
son into a marriage against their will. The fact that the missionary was approached to
save the situation must be regarded as an act of desperation, indicating that traditional
channels of social communication had failed.117
Such examples of marriage breakdowns also illustrate the collapse of the
social infrastructure marriage in traditional China entailed. But what about the
majority of those marriages which functioned without major disruptions? Missionary
correspondence frequently refers to examples of inter-communal marriages with a
certain degree of criticism - without condemning these marriages in principle.118 The
missionaries’ main criticism was usually directed at the difficulty of maintaining the
“purity of the Christian faith”, rather than at the problem of making the marriage
viable in social and personal terms. The missionaries knew, however, that during the
early history of Christianity, intermarriage had provided an important means of
conversion, and the (celibate) European priests were hence eager to preserve this one
element concerning marriage they were able to relate to. A letter from early nineteenth
century Shanxi highlights the common nature of mixed marriages. The rather critical
remarks by Giovanni A. di Pompejana concentrate on the strong links which existed
between both communities, usually to the detriment of Christian doctrinal purity. One
such observation was reserved for incest - a widespread custom in the mountain areas
117 Freely paraphrased from the original (ibidem, folium 208V): Praeter casum in meis litteris 14.8.bris
anni superioris [i.e. 14 October 1805] Sac. Cong.ni propositum alius similis anno praesenti occurrit:
quidam scilicet X.tianus habito prius commercio carnale cum nuru sua ..., multis rem ita scientibus, ut
occulta nimine censeri possit, matrimonium deinde cum filio, inconsulto Missionario, celebrari curavit,
nec ambo sponsi nec absque tumultu et scandalo separari possunt; unde similiter pro convalidando
hujus modi matrimonio invalido, humiliter petitur a S. Sede dispensatio.
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of Shanxi, where villages were separated from each other through difficult terrain and
hazardous roads. Wedlock within the first degree of consanguinity was also a taboo in
the Chinese tradition, but here local custom outweighed the greater conventions. As
far as the missionaries were concerned, the letter concludes, the most important rule to
observe under these circumstances was to keep a tactful silence.119
We also learn of marriage patterns as “footnotes” in the reports compiled by
magistrates or representatives of the central administration. Reference to the marital
status of discovered sectarians belonged to the standard questions of each
interrogation, the number of children being duly noted. Not having any offspring was
recorded with particular interest, since it raised a number of questions concerning the
identity of the suspect: Had he run away from his home village and a previous
marriage, possibly in connection with other crimes? Were man and wife so desperate
for children that they approached sorcerers and leaders of forbidden cults for blessing
and guidance? Not having a family to care for rendered the suspect more likely to
migrate freely through the land, increasing the possibility of unlawful acts. Being
without issue meant that he could roll up his mat within a matter of hours, in order to
escape the consequences of his actions.120 Other legal documents reveal the “negative
influence” of a wife or husband on the moral beliefs of a spouse. The responsibility
for adherence to Christianity, as a prohibited sect, was thus allotted to the spouse as an
intruding outsider, luring the innocent mate into rebellious superstition. One young
118
Compare the comments by Giuseppe Cerù, from the early eighteenth century. His deliberations on
missionary techniques are filed as APF document SOCP, Indie Orientali, 1723-1725, ff. 21-23.
119 ... matrimonio nel primo grado de consanguinità collaterale ineguale inconsulto il Padre, por tanto
poi per sensa il nesciebam, obbligando cosí i PP.Missionari a dispensarli. Cf. APF SC, series III, Cina
e Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, folium 177 R.
120 This phenomenon increased during the latter half of the eighteenth century, when demographic
pressure began to upset the established balance. The sojourn of migrant worker He Guoda, cited in
various contexts throughout this thesis, at the home of his Christian landowner may serve as an
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Christian man, interrogated in 1817 by the Imperial Clan Court (zongrenfu
) official Mian Kai , put the “blame” for his illegal status squarely
onto the shoulders of his wife, whom he blamed for introducing him to the forbidden
doctrines of the Christian cult.121
An issue as potentially divisive as intermarriage, though conceptually
diametrically opposed, were the Christian “virgins’ sororities”.122 Though most reports
about Christian women voluntarily living in seclusion - referred to in the European
correspondence as vocatas virgines - originate from the province of Sichuan, letters
sent to priests stationed in Macau also reach us from other parts of the Chinese
hinterland. These women, often in their early twenties, found voluntary seclusion
preferable to living in a society dominated by (heathen) men.123 The local population
mostly regarded these single women as saboteurs of social order, due to their refusal
to marry and generate successors to the male ancestral line, and hence frequently
abused the Christian “virgins”. Some sources, however, suggest that the “virgins”
were a source of admiration to some families, such as widows who were still bringing
up their children, and that they even constituted an important factor for the conversion
of entire families.124 We also learn that gentiles with girls in the same age group
example. See FHA, scroll 9258, original document 492, sub-numbers 19-20, frames 339-344, dated QL
39/4/12 (i.e. 21/5/1774).
121 Cf. FHA, scroll 9261, document 501, sub-number 20, frames 872-878, dated 23/12/1817. Mian Kai
(1795-1839) is referred to by his posthumous name of Mian Ke in de Groot, Sectarianism and
Religious Persecution, p. 463.
122 For Sichuan, these are well documented in R. Entenmann, “Christian Virgins”, pp. 180-194.
123 All-women associations were by no means unusual and were also a common feature of Buddhist
pilgrimage associations. With reference to the Xingshi yinyuan zhuan , see Glen
Dudbridge, “Women Pilgrims to T’ai Shan: Some Pages from a Seventeenth-Century Novel”, in: Susan
Naquin and Chü-fang Yü (eds), Pilgrims and Sacred Sites, p. 55 ff. See also Erik Zürcher, Bouddhisme,
christianisme et société chinoise, pp. 43-49 (“Religieuses et convents dans l’ancien Bouddhisme
chinois”).
124 Parents - and at times even male suitors and later husbands - were usually able to enter the
sororities. See Léonide Guiot, La Mission du Su-tchuen au XVIIIme siècle, p. 335.
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considered the “Christian virgins” as worthy of admiration.125 Convents run by the
direct guidance of Western missionaries were, however, often difficult to justify. In
order to save themselves from the wrath of the local population, convents often
imposed a minimum age on prospective nuns, in general around the age of forty.126
During the eighteenth century, such convents gave way to loosely hierarchised
sororities, often situated in locations which were difficult to access and generally kept
secret. But the phenomenon of marriage refusal by women can also be traced to other
religious traditions. Buddhist convents (ni’an ) attracted young women in great
numbers, though many were forced to enter monastic life out of economic necessity,
rather than religious or intellectual persuasion.127 During the Qing period, the state
even promoted female chastity to a certain extent, by encouraging widows to renounce
the option of remarriage. These “women of virtue” (jienü ) were held in high
esteem by society at large, as well as by the Confucian-educated state officials, who
would erect arches and stelae for public exultation.128 Christian sisterhoods and
marriage refusal thus drew from a powerful subculture, which greatly facilitated the
process of inculturation. To the non-Christian neighbours of these virgins, the
125 Léonide Guiot makes reference to the correspondence between Pottier and the Vatican concerning
the sororities. Realising that many girls joined at a very young age, the Propaganda issued guidelines
which inter alia stipulated a preferred minimum age of thirty and an absolute minimum of twenty-five
years before any virginity vows could be undertaken. Chastity vows, moreover, were to be renewed
every three years. See Léonide Guiot, La Mission du Su-tchuen au XVIIIme siècle, pp. 335-339.
126 Cf. F. G. de San Pedro, Relation de la nouvelle persecution, pp. 76-79.
127 This phenomenon can of course be encountered in any monastic tradition. For mediaeval
Christendom cf. Roberta Gilchrist, Gender and Material Culture: The Archaeology of Religious
Women, London: Routledge 1994. Gilchrist, on page 19, refers to eroticism within the convent walls as
a reinterpretation of physical tenderness - almost as a meditational exercise for the crucified Christ. In
this context, see also Craig Harline, The Burdens of Sister Margaret: Inside a Seventeenth-Century
Convent, London: Yale University Press 2000.
128 See David Jordan, Gods, Ghosts, and Ancestors, p. 158, note 23, quoting Luigi Vannicelli, La
famiglia cinese: studio etnologico, Milan: SocietÀ Editrice “Vita e Pensiero” 1943, p. 387.
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phenomenon was nevertheless regarded, and frequently despised, as a purely
“Christian” problem.129
6. Inherited identity in Christian villages
In the conversation between the old villager Ai , of Nestorian descent, and
Matteo Ricci we learn that the villager’s only knowledge of Christian liturgy was to
make the sign of the cross before his meals, unable to recall its significance. We also
learn of the readiness of the early Nestorians to combine conventional fatalism (a
sceptical view of the power of protective spirits) with the new faith. Theological
considerations were regarded as “beneficial words” (yan haoshi ), whereas
the emphasis remained on the earthly necessities of the peasantry (xiajie bao pingan
).130 One thousand years later on, following the arrival of
missionaries from Catholic Europe, we can observe a similar propensity to
amalgamate traditional notions with new religious teachings. After the Yongzheng
edict of 1724, missionary activity outside the capital area and outside Macau had been
prohibited. The practical consequences for the Christian communities depended very
much on the attitudes of the provincial governor and of local magistrates, but even in
areas with a more tolerant type of local administration, European missionaries found it
virtually impossible to gain access to their erstwhile parishes. Under the prevailing
conditions, converts who had been baptised by missionaries passed the essentials of
the missionaries’ message on to their children, often lacking clerical guidance of any
129
See APF SOCP, Indie Orientali, 1817, folium 13.
See Gao Dianshi ,Zhongguo lidai tonghua jizhu“ Edited
Selection of Children’s Stories from China’s History”), [Jinan:] Shandong daxue chubanshe
 1990, p. 417, where old Ai is erroneously referred to as being “Jewish”
(youtai ). Examples of similar ‘mix-ups’ of Jews and Nestorians are by no means confined to
130
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form. While the perceptions of this first generation bore the clear imprint of popular
religious traditions, subsequent generations accepted the interpretation of their
Christian forebears by the sheer force of heredity: If the ancestors had been converted
to the Sect of the Lord of Heaven, the progeny were expected if not to believe in its
teachings then at least to respect them. Christianity had thus turned into a “hereditary”
denominator, with theological considerations ranking second to those of ancestry.131
Following the edict of 1724, the European missionaries attempted to
administer their former pastures clandestinely. From a legal case of 1746 involving
foreign priests employed by the emperor for their “mathematical services” (suanfa
shiwu ) we learn that in the vicinity of the capital, such priests were in
frequent contact not just with old converts, but also with their descendants. We also
hear of Christians who regarded themselves as such because “their fathers had
followed the faith” (yin zushang guijiao ), but whose knowledge of
Christianity’s doctrinal contents seemed limited to the “promotion of benevolence”
(quan ren wei shan ) and the preservation of “common sense”
(pingchang daoli ).132 These second-generation Christians were
supplied by the foreign missionaries with crucifixes, “sacred texts” and rosaries, to be
children’s literature and are referred to in Marshall Broomhall, The Bible in China, London: British and
Foreign Bible Society 1934, p. 86.
131 See R. H. C. Shek, “Religion and Society”, p. 295, for another example of “hereditary” influence:
the leadership of Wang Sen’s family over the Yuandun movement. This example is also analysed in
Susan Naquin “Connections between Rebellions”, where the author clearly demonstrates the importance
of patrilinear transmission of beliefs in Chinese society.
Nicole Constable, following extensive research into the religious and social life of a Hakka 
community in the New Territories of Hong Kong (Shung Him Tong or Chongliantang ),
concluded that Christianity reinforced the “ethnic” identity of the villagers. She also describes
manifestations of the social pressure applied by parents to prevent their offspring from marrying outside
the local (i.e. Christian and Hakka) community. See Nicole Constable, “The Village of Humble
Worship”, pp. 1-14. See also her Christian Souls and Chinese Spirits: A Hakka Community in Hong
Kong, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press 1994.
132 QL 11/8/2, i.e. 16 September 1746, by Jiang Bing( FHA, scroll 9258, original document
493, sub-number 26, frames 369-375). It is entitled: "Acknowledged report of the oral testimony
concerning Fu Zuolin" ( ), in particular frames 371 and 372.
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used for memorising the accompanying scriptures, usually through the medium of
fellow Christians who visited the capital for commercial reasons. What may have
appeared to the European missionaries as a commonplace method of facilitating the
absorption of the Christian doctrine, was perceived by the Confucian officials as an
act designed to lead commoners astray from the path of orthodoxy.133 Rosaries, for
instance, were also commonly used in Buddhist movements, such as the Longhua sect,
where their beads were used as a mnemonic for the number of sutras recited.134 For
this reason, state officials assumed links to illegal movements whenever such cultic
objects were found and applied the standard techniques of interrogation in order to
extract the truth from their captives. Despite being repeatedly pressed for a positive
answer, the defendants denied the existence of name registers in the churches. Such
registers would of course have facilitated the work of the prosecuting state, revealing
the identity of non-local actors, and in particular of the leaders of Christian
communities in Beijing as well as in the surrounding districts of Zhili. The villagers
also denied that the Europeans attempted to convert non-Christians, though they
maintained that Christian paraphernalia was being exhibited regularly outside
Beijing’s churches in order to attract the curiosity of bypassers. The governor
considered this a clear violation of the Yongzheng edict, and requested that the matter
133 All over Catholic Europe, clerics attempted to overcome the obstacle of illiteracy by providing
“symbols” of the faith, which could assist the congregations in memorising the Christian doctrines.
Many of the European missionaries originated from the very classes most prone to absorbing nonorthodox (“superstitious”), local interpretations of Christianity. See Dorothy M. Meade, The Medieval
Church in England, Worthing: Churchman Publications 1988, pp. 48-59 (“Superstitions” and “Saints
and Pilgrimages”).
134 See de Groot, Sectarianism and Religious Persecution in China, p. 226, commenting on the use of
rosaries (suzhu or nianzhu ) in the Longhua tradition. The belief that icons are able to
absorb a certain degree of sanctity - thus becoming talismans and lucky charms - can also be observed
in popular expressions of Catholicism. A feature of the mediaeval mass in Europe was to show the
cover of the massbook to the congregation, who would then attempt to touch or kiss the ornate outer
shell of the holy book in order to benefit from its holiness. Once the cover was assumed to have become
holy, in some cases the book itself would be detached from the cover and kept separately for liturgical
functions. See Martin Dudley, “The Book in the Liturgy: Ceremonies and Practicalities”, unpublished
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be taken up by the emperor in person. Regardless of whether the memorial had a
decisive impact on the emperor’s opinion, the remainder of the Qianlong period
witnessed a steady tightening of the foreigners’ freedom to act as missionaries within
the capital region.135
A document referring to a thriving Christian community in the heartland of
eastern China (Tongbo District , on the southern edge of Henan province),
some forty-four years after the edict outlawing Christian practice outside Beijing and
Macau, shed light on some of the theological interpretations of rural Christians in the
eighteenth century.136 It is of interest in the sense that it state officials were already on
alert throughout eastern China at this time due to popular agitation caused by rumours
of witchcraft and of nefarious Buddhist monks.137 On day seven of the ninth month of
the thirty-third year of the Qianlong period, i.e. 17 October 1768, Liu Tianxiang
 and Feng Mingshan , leaders of the Christian congregation of
the locality of “Millipede Canal” (Yanyougou ) were detained together with
villagers for reasons of “practising and propagating Christianity, congregating crowds,
[publicly] burning incense and chanting the scriptures”.138 The culprits were taken to
the chief official of Nanyang Prefecture in order to undergo investigation.
conference paper for The Church and the Book - Summer Conference of the Ecclesiastical History
Society (19-22 July 2000, University of Wales, Lampeter/Llanbedr-Pont-Steffan).
135 The emperor indeed endorsed Jiang Bing’s memorial by adding "May this be used for general
instruction" () by his own hand. See FHA, scroll 9258 original document 493, subnumber 26, frame 373.
136 Or at least of the way these elements of popular theology were perceived by the reporting officials in this case Asiha, as chief inspector of Henan province. The document is simply entitled
"Memorial concerning an investigation into Christianity" (), and is kept at
the First Historical Archives in Beijing as scroll 9258, original document 493, sub-number 32, frames
384-386. The memorial is dated QL 33/9/27, i.e. 6/11/1768. It can be inspected in print as “The Case of
Christianity in Tongbo District, Henan”  in volume twelve of Shiliao
xunkan , section ‘Heaven’, volume 12, pp. 421-424. The role of Asiha as president of
the Censorate during the suppression of the Wang Lun rebellion of 1774 is outlined in S. Naquin,
Shantung Rebellion, pp. 125-129.
137 Illustrated as a running theme throughout Philip A. Kuhn, Soulstealers.
138 
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Accompanying the prisoners were several objects connected with the forbidden cult:
“Canonical scriptures” (jingshu ), “pictures and statues” (huaxiang ,
“bronze Buddhas” (tongfo ), “lists of pious admonitions” (yudan ),
(baptismal?) “name registers” (qimingdan ) and “lists of virtuous behaviour”
(gongdan ). The terminology, of unambiguous Buddhist origin, indicates that
rural Christianity was perceived by the officials as one of the many “heretical”
movements permeating the region. The “scriptures” and “statues” find their Buddhist
counterpart in sutras and bodhisattva figurines, while the “brazen Buddha images”
speak for themselves; the mention of “name registers” simply compounds the fear of
organised insurrection, whereas both of the mentioned lists are reminiscent of the
“ledgers of transgressions and meritorious deeds” (gong-guo ge ), which
had become an integral part of popular religious life during the 18th century.139
The interrogators were able to obtain confessions revealing the origins of the
Christian community in Tongbo. Their ancestors were known to have migrated from
Hubei and Hunan (known as the Huguang region) across the border into Henan
province. It is clearly stated that they were already practising Christians (zushang jiu
feng tianzhujiao ). The first scriptures directly obtained from
Christian missionaries in the capital Beijing reached the local communities via the
Christian Yuan Huzi - “Bearded Mr Yuan”. The prohibitions against
Christianity proclaimed during the early Qianlong period (QL 13 and 17, i.e. AD 1748
and 1752) had escaped their attention, with the effect that three years later, Yuan used
a sojourn in Tongbo to propagate the message that Christianity was to admonish
people to “lead a virtuous life, and to spread happiness for the sake of the life to
139 Highly popular morality books divided human behaviour into moral categories of “good” (gong
, i.e. merit) and “bad” (guo , i.e. demerit). See R. H. C. Shek, “Religion and Society”, p. 131,
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come”.140 The resulting interest in the teachings of the bearded disciple of the Lord of
Heaven produced eighteen converts.141 Asiha summarised the tenets of the rural
heresy in the following words:
“Their belief merely urges people to respect the Ruler of the Universe,142
and not to desire a debauched life style. Commoners who illegally enter
the religion congregate in order to burn incense and to read aloud the
scriptures. They do not regard hoarding money as a crime”.143
Their scriptures, we learn, had been passed down from their ancestors, apart
from religious letters sent by Bearded Yuan from Beijing. Among the latter are several
exhortations to abide by the periods set by the Church for fasting (tianzhutang anyue
chizhai ). Once per year in the winter (presumably around
Christmas), the local Christians would receive a letter from Yuan. Upon entering their
faith, the villagers would adopt religious names (literally “names of the law”, faming
- the term for the religious names of Buddhist priests). These would be
allocated in front of the altar (tianzhuwei literally “tablet of the Lord of
Heaven” - tablets with the names of ancestors and of venerated persons of the past
were an important element of worship, and commonly found in public temples), where
quoting a definition by Sakai Tadao.
140 S
 ee Shiliao xunkan ,
section ‘Heaven’, volume 12, p. 421, where “Bearded Yuan” is mentioned as an activist in the Southern
Cathedral
and
as
an
office-holder
in
the
Board
of
Astronomy:
.
141  i.e. male converts of both the parent and of the younger generations,
not counting any female family members, who were outside the patrilinear ancestor system. The
statement in Asiha’s second memorial that the entire family of Liu Tianxiang had become Christians
() underlines that at least as many women were involved as well. Wang Zhichun,
Qingchao rouyuan ji, p. 91, contains a brief reference to the prohibition of following “Portuguese
Catholicism”, directed at China’s merchant profession (). It is,
however, quite likely that knowledge of such an edict never spread beyond the gates of China’s
merchant cities.
142 The characters could also be read as “respect heaven, earth, father, mother”. To
render them as above, however, would make more sense, as the term “mother-and-father” was a
standard expression in imperial China for the “parental” role of the emperor and of his ministers - even
of minor officials - towards the common people.
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converts “cleansed their hearts and mended their faulty ways” (xixin gaiguo
) chanting sacred words and performing a liturgical ritual with the help
of a book bearing the old inscription in Latin script. For security reasons, only their
baptismal names would then be entered in a register, and it was common practice not
to ask new believers for their original names or for their place of birth. From a
statement extorted from the Suizhou ‘pastor’ (huizhang ) Wang Xiangsheng
, we also learn that there were frequent contacts with fellow Christians
from Suizhou , some seventy kilometres south of Tongbo in Hubei province, in
particular when members of the Christian community in Tongbo died.144
We gain further insight into the case through a separate memorial, sent jointly
by the circuit inspector for Hubei, Cheng Tao and the governor-general of the
Huguang double-province, Ding Zhang .145 The document refers directly to the
discovery of Christian communities in Henan. Cheng Shou and Ding Zhang, as the
chief guardians of order in their provinces, followed up circuit inspector Asiha’s
findings by tracing the provincial origin of the Tongbo elders to the Huguang.146 Of
“Bearded Yuan” we learn that he too originated from the Huguang, from Dawanggou
(the
“Great
Royal
Canal”)
of
Sangyuan,
Suizhou
District
. After leaving his native village, his younger brother later recalled
during the interrogation, the family lost touch with him for nearly five years. Only
once, he stopped over on his way back from Chengdu, in Sichuan, where he had been
chopping bamboo for a living, but after this date he had not been seen at home for
143 S
 ee Shiliao xunkan , section ‘Heaven’,
volume 12, p. 422.
144 Ibidem, p. 424.
145 The memorial bears the title "Interrogation of the Christian Wang Xiangsheng et alii"
(); The memorial is filed as FHA, scroll 9258, original document
493, sub-number 33, frames 387-390 and dated QL 33/12/8, i.e. 13/1/1769.
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more than ten years.147 While in Beijing, he lodged with the European missionaries in
the Southern Cathedral, or Nantang. His arrest by yamen officials uncovered a
network of contacts around Wang Xiangsheng between the elders of
Christian localities in the region. Wang Xiangsheng, too, was a native of the Huguang,
from Zhutigou (“Pig’s Trotter Canal”) in Suizhou District. Having moved
to a different locality in the same district, Quanergou (“Little Spring
Canal”), ninety kilometres to the north of Suizhou, he married but remained without
offspring. From the days of his childhood, he had followed the Christian instructions
of his father meticulously. The officials noted that no “traces of statues, scriptures and
illegal writings” had been discovered (bingwu shenxiang jingjuan ji bufaziji
). During his interrogation, he confessed that
he “neither chanted the sutras nor worshipped the bodhisattvas” (bingbu nianjing bu
bai pusa ), but that he knew and obeyed the Ten
Commandments (shijie ), which “admonished everybody to do good” (quanren
zuohao ). On the strength of his commitment to the Ten
Commandments alone, Wang Xiangsheng became the elder of his Christian
community. Thus he ensured that the youngsters in the village knew what he
perceived to be the foundation of Christian ethics by heart. The Ten Commandments
were renarrated thus:
“One: Obey and follow the Lord of Heaven; Two: Do not call out the name of
the Lord of Heaven; Three: Honour the Day of Worship; Four: Revere your
parents in filial respect; Five: Do not kill people; Six: Do not engage in
corrupting activities; Seven: Do not steal or pilfer; Eight: Do not lie; Nine: Do
146
They are described as “migrants originally from the Huguang, but now having settled in Tongbo”
().
147 Ibidem, frame 389.
163
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
not lust after somebody else’s wife; Ten: Do not covet other people’s wealth
and property.”148
Wang Xiangsheng, and the group of fellow Christians149 around the elder, persisted in
the defence of their innocence. All Christians, except for one handyman employed by
Wang Xiangsheng, added that they had followed the instructions of their fathers, and
that there were no cultic practices the authorities may have construed as “heretical”.
Most of all, the Christians had never attempted to “congregate crowds of fellow
believers” (tongjiaozhiren huijuyichu ) - very well aware
of the officials’ phobia of sectarian gatherings, and any resulting popular
insurrections. No crucifixes or other liturgical instruments were found.150 Asiha
concluded that Liu Tianxiang and the other followers of the heresy were simple,
“unrefined country folk” (zhongdi xiangyu ), who had been deluded by
the rumours that by following Christianity one could perfect one’s moral standards
without breaking the law. The acquisition of European names, however, was in direct
breach of China’s traditions and could thus only inflict harm on social order. Hence
his demand for drastic repercussions against the originators of the heretical creed in
the capital:
“Liu Tianxiang and the others being investigated by myself are all
ignorant commoners from the wilderness of the mountains. Confused by
teachings originating from far away, they venerate the Lord of Heaven,
burn incense, chant sutras, undergo spiritual exercises without any evil
intentions. ... But for Chinese farming folk to change their names in
accordance with those stipulated by the teachings of an alien religion ...
148

( ibidem).
149 Their names listed include a Yuan Yunqing and his son Yuan Cunde , the
younger brother of the fugitive “Bearded Yuan”. Ibidem, frames 388-389.
150 Ibidem, frame 390.
164
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
must be considered an act of heresy. By implanting unorthodox religious
ideas, [Christianity] corrupts the morality of the common people.”151
The Huguang officials supported his findings, after an extensive investigation of
nearly three hundred households in villages of the Suizhou area.152 The final statement
by Asiha provides further insight into the state’s perception of Christianity as a
heterodox movement during the middle of the eighteenth century. Individuals are
questioned, rings of sectarian leaders (jiaozhang ) uncovered and interrogated,
and an important connection to the Christian congregations of the capital interrupted.
However the official treatment of the Christians may seem to the contemporary reader,
they are a far cry from the extermination campaigns against later millenarian
movements. The Christian had engaged in “illegal” (bufa ) cultic activities, but
were “merely” subjected to the standard punishment of caning, their lives having been
are spared. We finally learn that due to advanced age and illness, both Liu and Feng
were excluded from the punishment meted out by the yamen caners.153
A further example of rural hereditary Christianity during the early years of the
nineteenth century is the Christian village of Sanggu in Zhili Province.154
Protected through its remote position, only connected by “crooked and steep mountain
paths” (shanjing qiqu ), the village had escaped earlier attempts to
151

( i
bidem).
152 The localities listed in the memorial are all in the immediate vicinity of Suizhou: Zhutigou
, Anbaodian; Daaogou , Xiguan , Matou ,
Xindianand Weimiaogou  (total of 21 households). Searches in the localities
Mengshan, Mupanshan , Zhangchaobu  and Chayuangou 
resulted in 219 investigations. Ibidem, frame 389.
153 Ibidem and Shiliao xunkan , section ‘Heaven’, volume 12, p. 424.
154 Wanping District, Shuntian Prefecture . In a document of 1806 the officials
Shan Ying , Tai Cheng'en , Wan Ning and Chen Silongsubmitted
a memorial monitoring the effects of the persecution ordered by the Jiaqing emperor. See FHA, scroll
9258, original document 501, sub-numbers 16 and 17.
165
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
impose imperial prohibitions on Christianity. We learn of three native pastors,155
accused of propagating “perverted teachings” by printing and concealing forbidden
scriptures, and also that the Christian community had once embraced forty family
units, listed according to their gender on baptismal registers. All the symbols
connected with Christianity were found extant: The crucifix, icons and statues, flasks
for containing foreign wine (yangjiu -possiblyfor the Eucharist) and vessels for
medical herbs, and maybe also for incense. Two interconnected churches, one for
men, the other for women, were showing signs of neglect, but “had not been torn
down yet” (weijing zhegai ).156 The officials, when interrogating the
Christians, listened to the recurring statement that the villagers had merely “followed
the traditions of their forefathers”. One renegade cited the dire economic
circumstances caused by the death of his father as his reason for adhering to heretical
teachings,157 but others were less specific and indeed refused to see anything
objectionable in their religious lives.
From a recorded testimony (gongdan ) obtained in 1767, we gain
further insight into the motives of those Christian villagers who left their homes in
order to search for European priests.158 Commoner Wu Junshang of Xiaxia
village in Luling district is introduced as being "fifty-six years of age
and only having one son, his wife already having passed away”. Contrary to the
possibility that Wu Junshang converted to Christianity in the hope of divine grace
The three ‘pastors’ were Zhang Wengong,  Zhang Wencheng and
Zhang Wen’gao. The term jiaoshou l iterally means “Heads of Religion”, and is
elsewhere rendered as huizhang , or “Elders of the [Religious] Community”.
156 ... in line with the prohibition by the Jiaqing emperor. Ibidem, frame 17.
157 ; see FHA, scroll 9258, original document 493, sub-number 33, frame
389.
158 The confessions are part of an investigation carried by the circuit official for Jiangxi Province, Wu
Shaoshi , and are dated QL 32/9/7, i.e. 29/10/1767. They can be consulted as FHA, scroll
9258, original document 492, sub-number 17, frames 324-330.
155
166
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
being bestowed upon him in the form of a new wife and more children, we learn that
he had indeed "inherited" the belief from his father, a convert from the Yongzheng
period. Following the death of his father, Wu Junshang had abandoned his faith (fuqin
sigu meiyou fengjiao ). When in QL 21 (1756) his fellow
villager Liu Ruohan  invited the foreign Christian “Lin Ruohan”
to preach in their village, Wu Junshang reverted to his native religious
denomination, and started to use his baptismal name Peter (Baiduolu ),
while his son Wu Liangwei was encouraged to use his Christian name
Andrew (Ande ). Because the stranger lacked accommodation, Wu Shangjun,
his cousin Wu Weisan , a Xiao Xiangsheng and his brothers,
plus Liu Ruohan provided the finances, twenty-two ounces of silver currency in total,
to purchase him an abode. The defendant made a clear point of not having participated
in any “charms, spells, black magic or any other illegal acts”, apart from obeying the
rules of fasting.159 Wu Junshang furthermore specified that - following the arrest of
the missionary one year later - their religious activities did not involve any chanting of
scriptures (nianjing ), but instead were limited to “fasting for eight days every
month,
according
to
their
traditions”
(meiyue
zhaochang
chi-ba-ri-su
). When questioned about his religious ideas, both Wu
Junshang and Xiao Xiangsheng responded that it simply consisted of the belief that
“Christianity urged people to improve their character and that Christians would reach
a better place after their death”.160 From their parents, these Christians of the second
generation had inherited paraphernalia such as “Female Statues” (depicting, by all
probability, Mary), “scrolls and statues” (Jesus and/or saints), “rosaries” (nianzhu
159 
160
(ibidem).
 (ibidem).
167
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
), “crucifixes” and “sacred scriptures”, though only one volume is mentioned.
All of these had been bestowed upon the Christians and their families when the
European Lin Ruohan visited the village, and were not seen as “illegal”. Christians
also adopted baptismal names, which were used within the families of the village, and
which may have been allocated by Liu Ruohan himself. The elders (wei shou de ren
) obtained a regular payment, which they saved in order to accrue a little
interest. This could be used for solidarity payments for fellow Christians, for instance
to pay for barge and ferry fees while travelling.
Missionary correspondence written at the beginning of the nineteenth century
show that one generation later conditions were largely unchanged. During the course
of a conversation between the Mgr. Emmanuelle Di Goldino from Macau and two
peasants referring to themselves as “Christians”, one of the villagers conceded that he
had never been baptised. Nevertheless he proclaimed with insistence that he was a
genuine Christian “as both his father and his grandfather had been so” (perchè il suo
padre lo fu, ed il suo Nonno).161 When Goldino questioned the reasons for his
unbaptised state, the peasant explained that this was due to the long absence of
missionaries from his district, the last missionary having visited the area before he was
even born. The Monsignore continued by testing his knowledge of the Christian faith,
discovering that the villagers were hardly familiar with any of the basic doctrines of
the Catholic faith. The rural Christians were also ignorant of how to make the sign of
the cross and how to say the Our Father. Knowledge of the Creed was close to non-
161 Translated from a letter to the Vatican by Emanuele D. Goldino, attaché of the Portuguese
ecclesiastic administration of Goa, sent to Rome from Macau in October 1806. See APF SC, series III,
Cina et Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, folia 195-196.
168
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existent, and that of other elements of their faith curtailed by the fact that they were
not aware of any priests in the vicinity of their district.162
From the beginning of the nineteenth century, with the arrival of more
missionaries from Europe, reported encounters with Chinese commoners referring to
themselves as “Christians” increased in frequency. In his report on the consequences
of the persecution of the early Jiaqing years in Shanxi, Antonio Luigi da Signa
delivered a detailed account of the plight of the persecuted Christians.163 Most
Christians, according to da Signa, were poor tillers, who had simple views of the
world. Da Signa drew his knowledge from extended sojourns with the peasantry,
usually by staying with the families of recently converted Christians. One such convert
is described as un de fedeli impaurito più che narrar si possa, coltivator di terra da
me poco fa bautezzato.164 Their knowledge of Christianity was limited to what their
forefathers had passed on to their generation - to lead a people to the road of virtue. In
any case, since the cult had been passed on for several generations, it would simply
not be right to abandon it.165 Official sources from the early nineteenth century
suggest that Christians from distant villages at times professed to have been ignorant
of imperial decrees against the proselytisation of their religion - although they were
likely to be aware that such lack of knowledge was likely to attenuate the verdict of
162
Same source, folium 195R. See also the - much earlier - observation in F. Margiotti, Il cattolicismo
nello Shansi, p. 189.
163 Letter by A. Luigi da Signa from Pu Huo (Shanxi), 7 March 1806. Recorded as APF document SC,
series III, Cina and Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, ff. 105-111.
164 “... one of the faithful, more impoverished than can be described with words, a tiller who had
recently been converted by me”; ibidem, folium 105.
165 The original wording (ibidem, folium 108): La Sagra Religione non ha niente di male, anzi
all’opposto dirigendo essa l’uomo in la buona via della virtù. Venuta [dagli antinati]... non era giusto
il renegarla (“There is nothing evil about the Holy Religion, and on the contrary, it leads man to a good
life of virtue. Since it has been passed on [from the ancestors] ... it felt not right to abandon it”). The
words refer to the trial against the family members of Mauro Li, addressed on page 264 of this thesis.
169
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
the prosecuting officials.166 In his memorial of the year 1813, Ma Huiyu  Governor General of the Huguang - reported the case of several rural “Christians by
birth”, whose “Christian faith had been transmitted to them by their fathers and
grandfathers”. Due to the voluntary nature of their confession, and to the “regret and
repentance” of the lapsed Christians, Ma Huiyu argued for imperial clemency.167
We gain more insight into the cultic practices of Christian villages we gain in a
memorial of 1811 written by the imperial officials Song An and Gan Jiabin
. The accused villagers are referred to as “faith offenders” (jiaofan ),
their “offence” consisting of having adopted Christian names (jiaoming ), and
of possessing religious writings and symbols, such as wooden crucifixes and rosaries
(jiaozhu ). They readily professed to going to church on Sundays in order to
read the scriptures aloud while kneeling in front of a crucifix (yu xiyangtang xiang
shizijia guizhe nianjing ). In a slightly later
document, the discovery of crucifixes, statues and of a glass bottle is reported. During
the interrogation, the main defendant Li Shao , a sixty-six year old native of
Shenzhouin Zhili Province, accused her husband and the other men of the
household of seducing her into the faith by passing on Christian sayings. This had also
come quite naturally to her because both of her grandparents had been Christians prior
to their move into the capital (around 1783). According to the apostate, the essence of
the Christian faith was that
166
On “sinning”, see pp. 108-114.
167
(translation by J. J. M. de Groot).
See de Groot, Sectarianism and Religious Persecution, p. 404, after Shengxun volume 100; Ma Huiyu
on the treatment of Liu Yi and eight fellow Christians discovered in Jingshan  district on
13 June 1813.
170
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
“... in the Truth of God’s word..., [baptism] is a guarantee that we will
enter Heaven after our mortal end. Also, that the water in the Bottle for
Sacred Water washes away all evil.”168
Since she insisted on not having entered a church, nor of having stored Christian
artefacts in her home, she asked to be pardoned. In this case, officials made use of
tensions within Christian families in order to locate the chief “heretic”. A further
example of this policy is preserved in a memorial describing the discovery of an
underground Christian community in the imperial capital in the year 1817. Following
the discovery of crucifixes and of statues, some of the suspects were forced to
apostatise by stepping on a crucifix. After this test, one of the apostates accounted for
the reasons of adhering to the old faith, blaming their maternal aunt for introducing
the creed into the family circle.169
The above examples highlight the integration of Christianity into the religious
landscape of late imperial China. The general conclusion is that the “religious”
element of the Christian tradition had been reduced to a minimum, with the emphasis
of the Christians’ tradition gradually shifting to the symbols of their faith. Owing to
the absence of spiritual guidance, such outward signs were instrumental in preserving
the unity of Christian families and communities. Being loyal to one’s Christian
ancestors was now the essence of what it meant to be a “good Christian”. The concept
of ‘religious filiality’ thus united China’s Christian communities with other
expressions of popular religiosity.
168
Se
eFHA, scroll 9261, original document 501, sub-number 18. Officials: The Inspector of the Capital’s
Eastern District () Heng An  and Wang Yanbo 
171
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
7. Itinerant Christians, private religious practice and the interest of the state
Whereas the Christians of China’s villages routinely stressed the innocuous,
private nature of their cult, the investigating state officials were chiefly concerned
with the practical threat to social stability emanating from China’s numerous religious
movements. In order to draw the right conclusions relating to the identity of religious
groups, including potential connections with fellow sectarians, information relating to
the “private lives” of sectarians could become an important source of state
intelligence. Though the religious habits of individual households or villages usually
remained unpoliced, the state considered it a grave offence to pass on heterodox
teachings to fellow villagers (xi-chuan xiejiao ) - and possibly beyond as this was contrary to the magistrates’ efforts to keep the activities of religious
movements under control.170 Fears of involvement of secret societies were
compounded by the professed “private” habit of fasting (or of abstaining from meat,
chi-zhai) on every sixth and seventh day of the month. Vegetarian habits were
usually associated with movements influenced by Buddhism, in particular after the
White Lotus uprising in 1796. “White Lotus” (bailian ) was a vaguely defined
collective term often used when the precise nature of a sectarian movement was
unknown.171 It is hence conceivable that Christian villagers with no obvious foreign
connections were classified by confused magistrates as belonging to the same
movement.172 Though not directly applied, the private habits of a clandestine Christian
community in Shaanxi Province, mentioned in a memorial of the year 1805, created a
169
FHA, scroll 9261, original document 501, sub-number 20, frames 872-878. The memorial is dated
23/12/1817.
170 The first chapter of Part III (i.e. chapter 6, pp. 178-192) is devoted to the relationship between the
state and religious movements.
171 See Philip A. Kuhn, Soulstealers, p. 224.
172
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
link with the vegetarians of the White Lotus.173 The document makes specific mention
of the absence of church buildings and a clergy, stressing that the Christian villagers,
led by the academic Gong Agui and a certain Liu Shichang, chose to “chant their
sutras privately in their homes”.174 The subversive element of this secretive cult was to
“send letters and to congregate crowds” for the propagation of their faith (juzhong
tongxin ) - following the pattern of White Lotus activities in other parts
of China. From another memorial175 from the year 1806 we learn that in some cases
there were no external communal signs of Christian practice at all - no public
churches, no clerical organisation, no openly visible crucifixes or Christian writings.
Yet the villagers professed to be Christians by merit of, in the words of the official,
having “inherited the sins of their forefathers.”176
Be it for the sake of finding excuses or for genuine filial feelings, the statement
of
having
“followed
their
religious
practices
from
childhood”
(ziyou
rujiao was used as a universal declaration of defendants from Christian
communities. That it may have been more than a ploy to regain their liberty from the
magistral interrogators becomes apparent in cases involving “repeat offenders”, who
had to suffer for their religious affiliation without ever deciding to abandon it. One
172
The Jesuits missionaries of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries regularly encountered converts
reluctant to abandon their vegetarian habits. A “relapse” into vegetarianism was hence more than likely
following the departure of a missionary. See F. Margiotti, Il cattolicismo nello Shansi, pp. 351-352.
173HA, scroll 9261, original document 503, sub-number 39, on the sixteenth day of the intercalary six
month of the tenth year the Jiaqing reign period (10/8/1805). Daniel Bays suggests deeply entrenched
vegetarian beliefs as a reason for the popularity of Christianity (the Eucharist in particular) during the
latter part of the nineteenth century. See Daniel Bays, “Christianity and the Chinese Sectarian
Tradition”, pp. 41 and 47.
174
HA,
scroll
9261,
original
document
503,
sub-number
39:

175 See FHA, scroll 9261, original document 408, sub-number 21. The memorial commenting on
Christianity in Sichuan stresses the private character of Christian practice, i.e. the absence of public
institutions.
176 See also the account of the apostate (yijiaofan , i. e. “former faith offender”) Kui Min
in a memorial of 1814 (FHA, scroll 9261, original document 501, sub-number 12), where the
173
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
such example is Xie Wenshan , of Dageng District , Jiangxi
Province.177 We learn that Xie Wenshan, a sexagenarian with the Christian name
Ignatius (Yin-na-jue ), had been arrested for dealings with the foreigner
“Wang An-duo-ni” in Suzhou in 1748. Following his release caused by a general
amnesty in the first month of the seventeenth Qianlong year (i.e. June 1749), Xie
Wenshan managed to follow his religious activities unnoticed. This changed in the
February of 1752, when he decided to heed the recommendation of Macau’s bishop to
accompany the newly arrived foreign missionaries through the canals and country
lanes of Guangdong province to the city of Songjiang in the Jiangnan.178 His fellow
Christian Wang Qinyi followed Xie Wenshan’s example, accompanying
the foreigners through the Cantonese hinterland, and arranging for fishing boats to be
hired for their use. He, and another eight named Christians from the same area,179
furthermore consented to distributing “religious tracts” (zhaidan ) among the
non-Christian population, and to act as couriers for missionary correspondence, and
for general contacts between Beijing, Macau and the Christian centres in adjacent
provinces. The Chinese Christians had thus, alongside their foreign confrères,
transgressed the imperial ban on any Christian missionary activity within the empire.
The documentation at no stage suggests that they had been pressurised into assisting
the foreign missionaries. Nor does the material indicate a qualitative difference in the
official judgement on the two groups of Christians involved: Foreign and local
“fault” for the aberrant behaviour of the son was clearly ascribed to the forefathers
().
177 From a document simply entitled “Confessions” (gongdan ), FHA, scroll 9258, original
document 492, sub-number 9, frame 303-306.
178 Ibidem, frame 303.
179 The names (and districts) of the eight are Zou Hansan  (Zhaowen District ),
Ding Liangxian  (Changzhou District ), Shen Gongjie (Nanhui
District ), Wu Xizhou  (Fengjian District ), Zhang Yuying
 (Nanhui District ), Zhou Jingyun  (Lou District/Songjiang
174
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
Christians alike had violated Qing statutes by the simple fact of having acted as
missionaries of their cultic beliefs. “Following the faith of their forefathers” was thus
deemed acceptable by the prosecuting state - at least for commoners among the Han
population. Proselytising their faith, however, could not be tolerated, lest the fragile
social equilibrium be upset. In a memorial from the year 1815, focusing on the Gubei
baojia  in Zhili Province,180 reference is made to twenty Christian
households which remained loyal to the faith of their forefathers despite the current
prohibition. Their illegal creed had been exacerbated by proselytising Westerners who
entered the baojia in the 1805. Whether the Christian objects (pictures and statues,
religious writings, rosaries, crucifixes, etc.) found in the homes of the heretics were to
be attributed to the foreigners or to the Christians’ ancestors remains unclear. A
further example of adherence to the religious identity of the village community can be
found in the exclamations of Cantonese peasants who had been forced to flee their
native village for fear of reprisals. The villagers expressed their gratitude for the offer
by neighbouring (foreign) missionaries to accommodate them and to alleviate their
poverty, but they were simply “unable to leave behind parents, old mothers and tender
children, because this would go against the fourth commandment”.181
The itinerant professions had always been regarded with great scepticism by
the state, as destabilising factors in a rural society difficult to control. Another
document underlining the involvement of travelling individuals in the dissemination
of popular beliefs comes form the year 1798, when the itinerant medic “Mr. Guo”
), Shen Madou (Jiangning District ) and Ni Dezai 
(Changshu District ).
180 Reported by Xu Kun . See FHA, scroll 9261, original document 503, sub-number 13.
181 .... and, it could be added, against the Confucian commandment of filial piety. Conveyed in a letter
by E. D. de S. Goldino, bishop of Macau, around the year 1806; cf. APF source SOCP, Indie Orientali
1817, f 37 V.
175
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was found guilty of spreading heretical teachings and of distributing Christian
paraphernalia. A female villager interrogated by state officials claimed to having been
steadfast against his evil teachings by seeking the guidance of a trusted mentor. Her
aunt, however, had always been loyal to the creed, hiding a crucifix in a little wooden
box inside her room. The accused professed to having followed the doctor during his
stay within the imperial capital, but had abstained from his belief out of fear of
prosecution, following the imperial edict of 1811.182 In another document we hear of
a barber who had established a venue for “chanting the scriptures” in his shop, which
he decorated with a signpost bearing Christian writings.183 Thus he was guilty of
“soliciting disciples and confusing the masses” (chuan-tu huo-zhong ).
In a statement indicating the existing links between Christians from different
provinces, Wu Junshang went on to report how Jiang Rikui , a commoner
of Wan’an  District, adjourned in his home while purchasing fabrics in the
nearby village of Xiaxia. The three veteran Christians Wu Junshang, Wu Weisan and
Xiao Xiangsheng conferred with the itinerant medic (xing-yisheng ), and
concluded that too many years had gone by without somebody having been present to
teach the Christian villagers more about their faith, and indeed that the religion was in
danger of perishing.184 When the doctor from Wan’an district made his intention
known of travelling to Guangdong province in order to buy pharmaceutical herbs, the
villagers suggested that he investigate the whereabouts of the foreign priest Lin
Ruohan who had visited them one decade earlier. In the case of Lin having returned to
Europe, Jiang Rikui would endeavour to find another priest who could instruct the
182
See the above-mentioned FHA, scroll 9261, original document 501, sub-number 20, frames 872878. The reporting official is the Clan Court administrator Mian Ke. The memorial is dated 23/12/1817.
183 Reporting officers: Ying He and Mu Zhang’a. See FHA, scroll 9261, original
document 501, sub-number 22.
176
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villagers in the teachings of Christianity. This, we learn from an accompanying
memorial,185 had indeed been the case. Instead of “Father Lin”, Wu Junshang and
Jiang Rikui returned with a certain “Alien Monk 'Andangnedu' from
Europe in the West”,186 of whom the authorities already had a criminal record for
proselytising in Jiangxi province. The Christians ignored a stern admonition by Jiang
Rikui’s father, Jiang Yunshan , that Christianity had been proscribed, and
prepared for his journey to Guangdong by collecting a travel stipend. Jiang Rikui and
Wu Shangjun walked for several days, using the homes of Christians as their shelter
for the night. Wu Junshang later denied any collusion with Christians from other
districts, apart from four names mentioned in his testimony. This can be interpreted as
a tactical denial aimed at assuaging the suspicions of the investigating officials, or
may stem from the genuine conviction that his beliefs were chiefly a continuation of a
tradition taken over from his father, and perpetuated by his own son. The long list of
Christian fathers and of their sons (fifteen main defendants, ranging from eighteen
years of age to over seventy; wives and daughters are conspicuous by their absence in
practically all name lists) suggests that the preservation and propagation of
Christianity was very much of an internal clan and village affair. Christianity, as
perceived and practised by the second generation of Christian converts, had thus
become a marker of intra-village affinity, with theological and ritual awareness
 (ibidem).
The memorial was co-drafted by the circuit official for Guangdong Province Zhong Yin ,
and by the Governor-general for the Liangguang double-province Li Shiyaoand is dated QL
32/10/14, i.e. 4/12/1767. See FHA, scroll 9258, original document 492, sub-number 18, frames 327339.
186  (ibidem, frame 334) The case is mentioned,
though not analysed, in Ma Zhao, “Shilun Qianlong shiqi (1736-1796) chajin tianzhujiao shijian”, p. 42.
“Father Lin”, whose identity is not clear, is already mentioned on p. 162.
184
185
177
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reduced to a rudimentary and habitual level.187 The same source also suggests, and
this despite the assurances of the defendants, that contacts between Christian families
overcame the obstacles of distance, dialect zones and administrative boundaries. This
last aspect was of crucial importance to the few European and the increasing number
of Chinese missionaries from other provinces, who attempted to keep the traditions of
their Christian ancestors from falling into oblivion.188
Evidence of this tendency exists in abundance, in particular from the end of the
eighteenth century onwards. Young Chinese priests found their way into the interior
through the trade routes of Guangdong, but increasingly also via Hainan island.189 The
daily clerical life in the missionary regions of the north (i.e. Shanxi and Shaanxi, Zhili
and Shandong) were increasingly dominated by priests of Chinese extraction. The
influence of indigenous pastors such as Louis Fan Shouyi (1682-1753),
Francis Xavier He Tianzhang  (alias He Qiwen  1661-1736),
Maurus Cheng (1752-1801, of Zhaojiazhuang in Zhili) or François-Marie Tseng
(1740-1815, Shanxi province) over their congregations surpassed the authority of the
European priests in one important aspect - in the trust extended to them by the local
community as fellow Chinese beings.190 As to the Zhaojiazhuang community, details
187
This view is compounded by the surprising statement by one villager of sixty-four years of age,
claiming that he had “used the rosaries for the sake of memorising the scriptures” - without actually
knowing
that
these
scriptures
were
not
“Buddhist”
in
nature
(). See ibidem, frame
327: testimony by Chao Wan , baptismal name Paul (Baolu ).
188 Note, for instance, the writings of Andreas Ly in Sichuan. See Adrien Charles Launay, Journal
d'André Ly, prêtre chinois, missionnaire et notaire apostolique 1746-1763, Paris: Ch. Dounical 1906.
189 This route was described in great detail by the attaché (coadjutore) of the Archbishop of Goa in a
letter written in Macau in 1806, filed at the APF as document SC, series III, Cina et Regni Adiacenti,
1806-1811, f. 195-196.
190 See the letter by Emmanuele Conforti to the offices of the Propaganda, written on 1 October 1807
from Beijing (APF SC, series III, Cina et Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, ff. 398-402). Fan Shouyi looked
after the exiled members of the Sunu clan, sent to the mountainous margins of the Shanxi. See F.
Margiotti, Il cattolicismo nello Shansi, pp. 192-194 and 285-290. See also Paul Rule, “Louis Fan ShouI: A Missing Link in the Chinese Rites Controversy”, in: Actes du VIIe Colloque International de
Sinologie de Chantilly, Paris: Institut Ricci / Centre d'Études Chinoises 1995, pp. 277-294.
178
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concerning the composition of the clergy after the persecutions of the year 1811 reveal
an interesting picture: The majority of the named Chinese priests had inherited the
prejudices felt by their European predecessors with reference to the tensions between
the padroado missions and the Propagandists. The detail indicates the degree to which,
at the close of the century of prohibition, the Christian missionary enterprise had been
taken over by Chinese “ethnics”.191
Not all Europeans agreed with the increasing profile of itinerant Chinese
clerics.192 In contrast to the relative leniency conceded to local Christian communities,
investigating officials attempted to eradicate itinerant Chinese priests from the
countryside. When Chinese missionaries were encountered by state officials, their
treatment was by no means more lenient than that of the leaders of other religious
movements. The collusion of Chinese nationals with European priests was seen as an
aggravating offence. Such priests were seen as “intruders”, enticing villagers to adhere
to a “sectarian heresy” (zuodao yiduan ) aimed at “confounding the
common
people”
(shanhuo
minren
).
The
punishment
was
concomitantly harsh: Death through strangulation, enslavement with the Ningut tribes
of the Heilongjiang and with the Wula warriors of Jilin, and serious caning for
ordinary Christians.193 Capital punishment could be commuted to banishment to the
191 The reference to the Zhaojiazhuang congregation is part of the letter by Cardinal Dufresse to Rome
on 20 June 1813, mentioning the following Christians: Paul Li ,John Ren ,
Quintus Zhang , Felix Hu  and Jacob Li . See APF document SC,
series III, Cina e Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, folium 205.
192 Critical words can be found, for instance, in the letter sent by G. B. Marchini from Macau, 8
December 1806. He concluded that “Chinese missionaries alone could under no circumstances support
the Chinese mission for a longer period” (che la Christiana Religione abbandonata ai soli sacerdoti
nazionali non potrebbe longamente susistsere in quest’ imperio). See APF file SC, series III, Cina e
Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, ff. 235-238.
193 FHA, scroll 9258, original document 492, sub-number 18, frames 335-337.
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outer fringes of the empire - Yili, Mongolia and the Manchurian north in particular which entailed enslavement to a non-Han master - a fate dreaded more than death.194
Another vital clue with reference to the survival of Christianity during the
eighteenth century is provided in a memorial from Maoshandan  district in
Zhili Province. Zhao Chun and his kinsmen Zhao Ren , Zhao Guotai
, Zhao Guowang , Zhao Guoxin , plus another dozen
villagers all professed having followed their parents and grandparents in the practising
of Christianity.195 The morally unpardonable factor was not the mere fact of belonging
by merit of birth to a heretical movement, but in the refusal of the accused to mend
their evil ways (hu’e buquan ).196 This verdict was compounded by an
allegation brought to the emperor’s attention via the official He Ning, that the accused
had been preparing for rebellion against the state. Relying on a loose bond of mutual
loyalty between the clan leaders, village elders and yamen officials, magistrates were
compelled to view outside interference with great suspicion. In this case, there were
two allegations: Firstly of illegally sheltering Westerners, and secondly of establishing
contacts with natives of Xinjiang - Muslims who had been exposed to the teachings of
the Christian criminals.197 In a similar discovery in the summer of 1800, Christian
materials designed to “confuse the masses” (huozhong ) were confiscated in
194
The legal basis of exile to the outer regions of the empire are spelt out in Joanna Waley-Cohen,
Exile in Mid-Qing China: Banishment to Xinjiang, 1758-1820, New Haven: Yale University Press
1991.
195  Ibidem.
196 Reported in lengthy memorials throughout the year 1815 by Na Yancheng . See, for
instance, FHA, scroll 9261, original document 501, sub-number 14. On Na Yancheng’s involvement in
the suppression of the 1799 White Lotus rebellion, see de Groot, Sectarianism and Religious
Persecution, pp. 362 and 720 ff.
197 . See FHA, scroll 9261, original document 501, sub-number
15. The official investigator was He Ning 
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the southern province of Guizhou.198 The main accusation was that around the year
1784, “outsiders” from Sichuan had brought Christian teachings (yangjiao )
into the villages of district.199 As a consequence, the memorial concluded, the heresy
had been passed on to the “good villagers of the hinterland” (neidi liangmin
), from the parents to the siblings - thus becoming a “hereditary” feature
of the villagers’ social culture.200
This observation is corroborated by missionary reports from the early
nineteenth century, illustrating the unbroken continuity of Christianity in certain parts
of the Han provinces. Antonius de Calatia, for instance, was full of praise for his
missionary flock distributed in the mountainous provinces of Shanxi and Shaanxi.
Whereas other congregations had to struggle with the corrupting influences of rival usually Buddhist - cults, the whole of his mission was allegedly free or almost free of
(“superstitious”) ancestral tablets and of the images of Confucius and other sheng
(“saints”).201 Regardless of whether or not de Calatia's observations had been
cosmetically enhanced for a European audience, the situation in Shanxi and Shaanxi
was indeed more stable than in other parts of the empire. Not for reasons of imperial
198
.Memorialised by
Chang Ming on 21/7/1800. See FHA, scroll 9261, original document 501, sub-number 37.
199 The term “Foreign Teachings” (yangjiao ) is probably - in its derogatory, mildly xenophobic
sense - as old as the religion of the foreign missionaries in China itself. In eighteenth century
documents, the term is encountered sporadically, although mostly the more official Tianzhujiao was
used. Towards the turn of the century, however, with more foreign missionaries being intercepted at the
borders, the term experienced a renaissance.
200 The influence of ancestral affiliation was of course also a feature of other religious movements. Of
the Eight Trigrams uprising in 1813 we learn that many “sectarians” were encouraged to resist the
government campaign by honouring the physical presence of their buried forebears. This fact enraged
the Qing officials to such an extent that they sought to destroy their decomposed remnants, “so that the
spirit of mischief be eliminated” . See de Groot, Sectarianism and Religious
Persecution, p. 446.
201 Dèmum in Missione una nulla vel paucissimae sunt progenitorum effigies, Confucii tamen
aliorumque pro quo sanctis habet ethnica superstitio imagines quaedam vel effigies in fanis ... (“For in
our mission, there are no or only very few likelinesses of ancestors, and in the temples there are no or
very few pictures or likelinesses of Confucius or of others regarded as sacred by indigenous
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Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
benevolence, however: The toll paid by the - foreign and Chinese - missionaries was
high, with persecutions extending to all cities of the region. Neither because the
ecclesiastic structure would have provided support: The missionaries of Shanxi were,
on the contrary, well known for their ability to sow discord amongst each other.202 It is
therefore not astounding that in 1806 the Propaganda missionary Giovani Antonio di
Pompejana wrote that “the Shanxi diocese [sic] ought to be divided up, in order to
prevent further discord and harm to the faithful”.203 The resilience of the local
Christian community was more due to other factors: Remoteness from the centres of
administrative power, the uncharted mountain terrain, high levels of poverty - all
factors which encouraged the growth of popular religious movements.204 The success
of these Christian communities in the region also encouraged foreign missionary
orders to send further missionaries. The contacts with the Collegio de’ Cinesi in
Naples is a case in point.205
superstition”; excerpted from a letter written in October 1806). See APF SC, series III, Cina et Regni
Adiacenti, 1806-1811, f. 174 V.
202 The veteran missionary Charles Tan, at the turn of the century, left the mission, because of
exhaustion (victus miserias relinquit missionem), Joseph Li (aka Peter Zai) fled to Guangzhou, for fear
of his life, where he died. Meanwhile, Philip Li returned to Shanxi, weakened from his exile in Yili. See
APF SC, series III, Cina et Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, f. 138 V.
203 Letter despatched from Henceu, Huguang on 29 October 1806. Cf. APF SC, series III, Cina et
Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, ff. 175-178. The discord was mainly caused by an unfortunate
constellation of strong characters, in particular of the missionaries Mauro Li (uomo di non molto
coraggio - “a man of little courage”, folium 175), Nicollao Hô (who was demanding money from the
College in Naples), the ex-Jesuit Porroghesi and the infamous womaniser Paulus Van (cf. p. 296 and his
confession in Appendix 2). The term “diocese” course stands for the “missionary area” of Shanxi.
204 Confirmed by the report that young alunni from all provinces were welcomed with open arms by
rural Christian communities in Shanxi and Shaanxi. See APF SC, series III, Cina et Regni Adiacenti,
1806-1811, folium 107 V. Luigi da Signa’s letter also contains a list of new Chinese missionaries in
northern and central China, at the turn of the century. For the general background up to 1738, see
Fortunato Margiotti, Il Cattolicismo nello Shansi.
205 Cf. J. Emanuel, “Matteo Ripa and the Foundation of the College of Naples”, in: Neue Zeitschrift für
Missionswissenschaft XXXVII-2 (1981), pp. 131-140. See also the letter by Giovanni Battista Marchini
(16 October 1806, Macau), referring to a letter sent to him by Claude-François Létondal (MEP, 17531813). Marchini and Létondal refer to the connection with the Collegio de’ Cinesi of a certain alunno
Giacomo Li (see folium 161 V). Létondal had been dispatched from Macau to Penang in 1807, in order
to set up a seminary there. Cf. APF document SC, series III, Cina et Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811,
folium 161.
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The documents analysed in this second part illustrated some of the most
concrete aspects of Christian inculturation during the eighteenth century, by providing
insight into the social and ritual lives of Christian households. In the following third
part the analytical angle will be reversed, in order to view the phenomenon of midQing Christianity through the eyes of the state. Part Three will begin by discussing the
crucial concepts of orthodoxy, heterodoxy and heresy, before we turn our attention to
the concrete relationship between the Qing state and indigenous Christianity.
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Part III
A Protective Father: Official Perceptions of Christianity
and government action against sectarian movements
Chapter 6:
The philosophical basis for anti-heresy campaigns
Long before the advent of the Chinese Communist movement, the governing
authorities had looked askance at displays of religiosity not condoned as orthodox.
The propensity towards religion within the ruling bureaucracy may well have varied in
accordance with time and location, but the Chinese literatus was intrinsically a
sceptic, brought up to remember that “Master Confucius never discussed violence,
chaos, strange occurrences and spirits” ().1 Throughout its
history, Chinese officialdom has applied the anti-metaphysical attitude of
Confucianism to the religious movements of the time. And through the kaleidoscope
of the literary tradition, Confucian scepticism has also found its place in China’s
popular culture - almost as an equal alongside the great religious traditions.2 This third
part of the thesis is intended to illustrate the intellectual background and moral
disposition of the officials who were expected to take action against Christianity
during the century of prohibition. It will also highlight perceptions of Christianity and
of other religious movements as expressions of “heresy”, and explain the purpose of
the punitive measures adopted by the state in order to contain these. In conclusion, the
1
Instead, the gentleman was encouraged to “respect ghosts and spirits but kept them at a distance”
(). See James Legge (transl. and ed.), The Chinese Classics with a Translation,
Critical & Exegetical, Notes Prolegomena, and Copious Indexes, Hong Kong: Hong Kong University
Press 1960, volume I: Analects (Lunyu), chapter VI-20, “Yong ye” “” (pp. 184-194).
2 Pu Songling (1640-1715) described the consequences of allowing oneself to be carried
away by undue interest in the metaphysical. See “Bihua ” (“The Mural”), in: Liaozhai zhiyi
, published around 1700 and republished, for instance, in Jinan by Qilu chubanshe
in 1981. See also the translation by Herbert A. Giles and Herbert Allen, Strange
Stories from a Chinese Studio, Shanghai: Kelly and Welsh 1908. It has to be stressed, however, that a
good grasp of Confucian principles and adherence to religious societies were by no means mutually
exclusive. The baojuan of the early Qing period demonstrate very clearly that popular Buddhism had
absorbed many of the values propagated by the Confucian educators of the Song and Ming dynasties.
See D. Overmyer, Precious Volumes, p. 229.
184
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following part will attempt to illustrate how the views and reactions of the state
officials can be regarded as proof of Christianity’s successful inculturation, as a result
of more than one hundred years of official prohibition.
1. The Confucian order and the importance of family ties
Instead of encouraging metaphysical speculation, Confucianism idealised
“harmony” (datong ) within human society, brought about by hierarchical,
patrilinear stratification. Confucian orthodoxy has always defended this view of
human (i.e. Chinese) society as the most “natural” social formation. If harmony was
imperilled by the unjustified appropriation of social positions (ming ), the
“natural” social hierarchy had to be reinstated (“rectified” zheng ) by the imperial
administration. Social rectification (zhengming ) was to be achieved through
educative measures rather than punishment, and was based on the social harmony
which supposedly ruled in the homes of the unsophisticated peasantry. In mutual
causality, fathers were to benevolently respect their sons, whereas sons subjected their
lives in filial piety to their fathers; if brothers respected each other as good friends, the
outcome for the entire household would be harmonious.3 Cooperation in the division
of land and the communal use of agricultural utensils, as well as the coordination of
the irrigation systems were indispensable elements for upholding a sense of social
balance. The social fabric of farming communities was based on blood affiliation and
was kept together through common ancestral origin, stronger even than close
friendship or marital ties. In brief, the family can be regarded not merely as a socioproductive unit, but indeed as a “religious” one. This religious function found its
185
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expression through sacrificial rites and celebratory banquets, involving all members of
the greater blood community, even if physically separated from the ancestral soil.
Competing religious traditions emphasising the individual hence faced a grave
handicap: The ideal of celibate monasticism in Buddhism and Christianity would be
seen as a menace to the physical continuation of the community and the sanctity of the
ancestral line.4 For a successful inculturation of Christianity into rural China,
Christian doctrine had to be reconciled with two fundamental principles: Respect for
the common ancestor (“filiality” xiao ) and the importance of the family network
for the perpetuation of social and religious traditions.
2. State-sanctioned orthodoxy and “heresy”
a) Protecting the orthodox
The legal codes of the Ming and Qing reflected the Confucian foundations of
Chinese civilisation. In the context of “heretical” religious movements, in particular
the “Great Qing Codex” (Daqing lüli ) and its appendix on criminal
legal case studies (Xing’an lüli ) provided a basis for official action.5
The “Imperial Instructions” or Shengxun contain the decrees of all enthroned
rulers of the Qing dynasty. Cases referring to anti-heresy campaigns are collected
 From the Zhongyong (Golden Mean), chapter 18, quoted
in Hou Jie and Fan Lizhu, Zhongguo minzhong zongjiao yishi, p. 25.
4 The commitment to withdraw from the world (chujia ) and to give up the desire for family and
children was in general regarded as a monstrous lack of filial piety. Note, as an extreme instance, a
source from the Waijidang, dated DG 3/12/22, i.e. 22 January 1824 and quoted in Susan
Naquin, “Transmission of White Lotus Sectarianism”, p. 261, note 12, indicating one instance of
several male Buddhists undergoing voluntary castration in order to be able to keep their vows of
chastity.
5 In between “orthodoxy” and “heresy”, the Confucian state granted a borderline status to sectarian
movements which partially fulfilled the criteria for orthodoxy. Examples illustrating this distinction are
analysed throughout Part Three. The present chapter will provide the philosophical and legal
justifications for action against “heresy” exclusively. A systematic introduction to state-approved
religious activity is presented in Edward L. Farmer, “Social Regulations of the First Ming Emperor:
3
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under the category “Suppression of Treachery and Evil” (“Jing jian-gui” ),
with frequent cross-references to the relevant legislation.6 Occasional pronouncements
by the imperial throne on specific cases of heresy increased the relevance of such antiheretical legislation.7 Precise definitions of the morally “correct”, zheng , however,
remained rare, and depended on the intellectual environment of the period.8 The
essential message of classical Confucianism, however, remained identical in all
traditions: Universal harmony, reflected in a correct social order, the basic principles
of which were defined by the “natural” hierarchies between the individual components
of family and state.9 The key to any interpretation was firmly held by the literati elite,
Orthodoxy as a Function of Authority”, in: Liu Kwang-Ching (ed.), Orthodoxy in Late Imperial China,
Berkeley: University of California Press 1990, pp. 103-125.
6 De Groot’s “Suppression of Refractory People”. Cf. J. J. M. de Groot, Sectarianism and Religious
Persecution, pp. 263-268.
7 For instance on the occasion of the persecution of White Lotus followers around the year 1800, when
the Jiaqing emperor referred to an earlier adhortation by his predecessor: “Reverently we have found in
the Authentic Register of Decrees of the sixth year of the Khien lung period (1741), that then an
imperial edict was received, to the effect that, for the ruling of regions where as yet no rebellion against
the Government has arisen, and for the protection of a realm where the Government is not yet in danger,
it is necessary to make the manners and customs and the human mind the first and chief objects of care.
For where the human mind is orthodox (ching [zheng ]) there the manners and customs are pure,
and as a consequence the Imperial Government possesses integrity and wisdom, in consequence of
which a long existence is ensured to the dynasty. This sage verdict, so glorious and brilliant, truly is a
political
standard
rule
for
myriads
of
generations.”
(

A
 s translated by de
Groot; see his Sectarianism and Religious Persecution, p. 369).
8 The tendency among Qing officials to glorify the Han period as a time preceding the “corrupting
influence” of Buddhism is exemplified in the comprehensive compilation of all known printed material,
the Siku quanshu , commissioned by the Qianlong emperor. The compilation
reproduced a total of 10,230 titles in 79,582 juan, but only 144 titles can be attributed to Daoist and a
mere 25 to Buddhist authors, who appear to have been included chiefly for their historical descriptions,
and not for any religious contributions. The Buddhist canon having been published with imperial
authorisation no less than four times in the major languages of the Qing empire, i.e. Chinese, Tibetan,
Mongol and Manchu, this figure must be regarded as being far from complete. I owe this observation to
Professor T. Barrett. The privately printed Jingshan canon, a collection of printing blocks begun in the
sixteenth century and continued into the deluge of the Taiping wars, combined the printing of classical
sutras with that of contemporary Buddhist texts, and thus guaranteed an abundant circulation of
Buddhist writings in Qing society. See T. H. Barrett, “Ignorance and the Technology of Information”,
p. 26.
9 The importance of an ordered relationship between human beings is underlined by the constant
emphasis in the early Confucian writings on the “bonds” between family members (the “Three Bonds”
san gang ) and within society in general (the “Five Relationships” wu lun ). The
cardinal virtues of “human kindness” (ren ) and “social responsibility” (yi ) express a similar
duality.
187
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who would have devoted the better part of their lives to memorising and analysing the
Confucian classics, as well as the recognised exegetical writings. During the MingQing continuum, the interpretations of the Song School (songxue , represented
by the Song dynasty scholars Cheng Yi, Cheng Hao and Zhu Xi) were largely
accepted as the yardstick for any debate involving matters of orthodoxy.10 Phenomena
which did not fulfil the criteria of Confucian orthodoxy were either tolerated as
“heterodox” (yi ) or condemned as “heretical” (xie ).11 On a more political
plane, the prosecuting officials also differentiated between “ordinary” (i.e. passive)
sectarians and activists who facilitated the illegal propagation of their faith, harboured
missionaries, organised local congregations or were involved in the production of
religious objects or scriptures.12 If evidence suggested the presence of libidinous
excesses or other “unethical” behaviour, stronger terms were used, such as
“licentious” (yin ) or “perturbed” (hun ). Most religious systems with a strong
transcendental component - such as Daoist and Buddhist movements - clearly escaped
the narrow definition of “orthodoxy” (zheng ), though the tenacity of such beliefs
10
See Erik Zürcher, “Confucian and Christian Philosophy in Late Ming China”, pp. 1-3. The Xing’an
huilan has a paragraph on “Perverted Religions and Magical Arts”. See Derk Bodde and Clarence
Morris, Law in Imperial China - Exemplified in 190 Ch'ing Dynasty Cases translated from the Hsingan hui-lan, with Historical, Social and Juridical Commentaries, Cambridge / Massachusetts 1967, as
well as T’ung- tsu Ch’ü, Law and Society in Traditional China, Paris and The Hague: 1961, pp. 201225.
11 The precise delineations between such definitions are, indubitably, to a certain degree arbitrary and
dependent on the contemporary normative environment of the research community. Without wanting to
overstate the obvious, it is helpful to remember that abstract definitions usually only take on a concrete
meaning when seen in an empirical (i.e. social, geographical, economic, political) context. For a recent
discussion of the relevant terminology, see Hubert Seiwert, “Orthodoxie und Heterodoxie im lokalen
Kontext Südchinas”, in: Hans G. Kippenberg and Brigitte Luchesi (eds), Lokale Religionsgeschichte,
Marburg: Diagonal Verlag 1995, pp. 145-155.
12 Ma Zhao, in “Shilun Qianlong shiqi (1736-1796) chajin tianzhujiao shijian”, pp. 41-42, distinguishes
two types of “ordinary followers” (putong jiaotu ): those following the religion of their
ancestors and those who convert light-heartedly. Ma reiterates a memorial annotated by the emperor
(Gongzhong zhupi zouzhe , volume 294, no. 1) stating that if “a commoner
enters a faith erroneously, the duration of [the sectarian’s] affiliation would not be taken into
consideration. The sectarian, provided [s]he confessed the trespasses voluntarily, would subsequently
not
have
to
be
interrogated”
188
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
during the course of Chinese history indicates that a “spiritual vacuum” existed in the
Confucian model. The members of the scholar official elite recognised the
(occasional) need for activities transcending the intellectual, taking solace from
exercises aimed at increasing their personal longevity (shou ) and mental
cultivation (xiu shen ). Christianity made its entry precisely at this interface
between Confucian social order and individual religious needs. In the version
propagated by the Jesuit scholar-priests of the outgoing seventeenth century, Roman
Catholic Christianity shared the Confucian disdain of “heretical” movements and
phenomena. In certain ways, Christianity was even more condemnatory than the
Confucianism of the literati: Such sectarian traditions were already, through their
sheer existence, in competition with the Christian faith a treacherous gift of Satan. It is
therefore not surprising that Christian missionaries decried the influence of Buddhism
on China’s popular religious life in uncompromising terms. An edition of the Novus
Atlas Sinensis by Martino Martini, printed in the year 1655, refers to Buddhism as “a
heresy and pest, which infected China shortly after the birth of Christ.”13 Christian
monotheism and Confucian scepticism thus formed an ideal intellectual amalgam for
the members of the literati elite who felt the need to “complement” their sociophilosophical world view.14
The centrepiece of ritualised orthodoxy (sidian ) during the Qing period
was indubitably the Confucius cult, though its nature depended heavily on the
(
).
13 ..... xekiao vocant; pestis haec paulo post Christum natum Sinas infecit. Cf. Novus Atlas Sinensis a
Martino Martinio Societatis Iesu Descriptus et serenissimo archiduci Leopoldo Guilielmo Austriaco
Dedicatus cum privilegio S.C. Maj. et Ordinis Foed. Belg., Vienna 1655. The atlas is part of the
Beitang collection [shelf mark 3410]; a version printed in the same year in Amsterdam can be inspected
at the British Library [Maps 18.e.2].
189
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
individual predilections of the worshippers.15 Any accusation of competing with the
privileged position of the Confucius cult was perceived as a direct attack against
established patterns of orthodoxy. It is hence easy to comprehend the alarm which
Matteo Ripa felt when he witnessed the rumours circulating through Shandong - the
birth province of the philosopher - that the “Christians wanted to eliminate
Confucianism” (zhujiao yao mie rujiao ).16 While most popular
religious movements could, to a certain extent, be regarded as “competitors”, the
Christianity propagated by the Jesuits was aimed at the literati, the defenders of the
Confucian tradition. The policy of the Chinese state towards established expressions
of Buddhism and Daoism, however, remained largely unchallenged during the whole
of the later imperial period. Mainstream Buddhism indeed developed a symbiosis with
the state structures which influenced its own clerical organisation. While the
construction of Buddhist temples was often encouraged by local officialdom,
commentaries in local gazetteers often eulogised popular shrines as a positive
contribution to the cultural fabric of local society.17 In the gazetteer of the Yongzheng
years for the magistrature of Ningbo we are informed that “Buddhist teachings have
permeated the county to such an extent that even the poorest localities have fine
buildings for Buddhist monasteries, often through the financial support of the imperial
14
Zürcher refers to the funeral of Yang Tingyun’s father. For the event, all customs which could be
construed as “superstitious” were banished, until only Confucian ancestor rites prevailed. See Erik
Zürcher, “Confucian and Christian Philosophy”, p. 12.
15 This is true at least for the first two centuries of Qing rule. As argued by Lionel Jensen, the
Confucius cult took on the role of China’s “national religion” during the latter part of the nineteenth
century. While aiming to strengthen social cohesion through the creation of a national cult, intellectuals
during the Qing/republican transition period (e.g. Kang Youwei, Liang Qichao or Hu Shi) emulated
earlier interpretations of the Jesuits, who regarded its venerated founder as a secular philosopher. The
reformers nevertheless encouraged the introduction of the religious paradigms akin to those of
Christianity. Cf. Lionel M. Jensen, Manufacturing Confucianism, pp. 53-57.
16 Cf. the letter by Carlo da Castorano to Matteo Ripa in Michele Fatica (ed.), Matteo Ripa, Giornale
(1705-1724), Vol. II (1711-1716), pp. 358-359.
17 For the “bureaucratisation” of (approved) religious life, see Ya and Wang, Zhongguo wushenlun shi,
pp. 561-565.
190
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
treasury.”18 The Yongzheng survey of the Lingshan district in Shandong lists thirteen
different categories of venerable locations, ranging from Confucian shrines and altars
for local worthies, as well as their places of study and leisure, illustrating the great
importance attached to religious rituals in local life.19 All such locations bore the seal
of approval of the literati elite, and can thus be regarded as fully “orthodox”.
One of the rituals which did find the approval of the official gazetteers was the
ancient tilling of the “tributary fields”, the jitian . The rite had received a fresh
impetus under the early Qing emperors - already remarkable in itself, as the ruling
Manchurians were more accustomed to life on horseback than behind ox and plough.
In order to display respect for the hardship of the peasantry and for the benevolence of
Heaven, the emperor would be ploughing the greatest amount (“1000 mu”), while
instructing the imperial nobility and district officials to follow his example by tilling
lesser plots:
The State regards the people as its basic value, the common people regard
nourishment as celestial bliss; in order to unite the rulers and the ruled, the
18
Zhongguo difangzhi jicheng, vol. 30 (Zhejiang gazetteers): “Ningbo Fu in the Yongzheng Period”,
section
‘Buddhist
and
Daoist
temples’,
p.
931.
The
original
text:




19 See Ribencang zhongguo hanjian difangzhi congkan 
("A collection of rare Chinese local gazetteers from Japanese holdings"), Beijing: Shumu wenxian
chubanshe  1991, volume 82, juan 5: “Lingshan xian during the Yongzheng
reign”, section 'Rites and Erudition' . Such sites include temples
(tan ), palaces of erudition (xuegong ), pavilions dedicated to Confucius (zhisheng dian
), shrines for famous officials (minghuan ci ) and those for the veneration of
Confucian worthies (chongsheng ci , xiangjian ci ), halls of ritual and music (liyue tang ), conventions dedicated to archery (shetuan ), regarded as a virtuous
activity for sharpening the minds and toning the physical strength of young scholars, places of learning,
agrarian land whose rents support education (so-called “study fields”, xuetian), as well as
shrines and temples ( ci miao). For a study of the (Confucian) state cult, based on the Daqing
huidian , see Stephan Feuchtwang, “School-Temple and City God”, p. 581 ff.
191
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
emperor has ordained that all the officials in the empire should emulate
the emperor in carrying out the Rite of Tilling the Soil.20
In the introduction to the chapter entitled “Altars and Shrines” of the local gazetteer of
1753 for the Changzhou District in Jiangsu Province21, we find the following
commentary by the regional magistrate:
The prescripts of the empire state that the [emperor as] Son of Heaven
has to sacrifice to Heaven and to Earth, while the imperial lords worship at
the altars for the spirits of the Soil and of the Grains, in order to intercede
for the people. The mountains and forests, rivers and valleys, hills and
mounds can produce clouds which yield rain; such natural manifestations
must [hence] be regarded as spirits (shen ). The officials sacrifice in
their appropriate fashion, as their virtue is superior to the common people.
The village worthies can then take this as a moral precedent and sacrifice
at the altars, looking up at their moral symbolism, and valuing their
enhancing effect on proper morality.22
The official local gazetteers habitually included temples for popular deities and
commonly worshipped spirits in their list of memorable features of the locality
portrayed, but would habitually publish these complete with admonitions against
Freely
paraphrased.
Full
text
and
translation:




“ In this manner, the officials and the people join up to form
one body. Servants and masters likewise unite into one. In ploughing the tribute fields myself every
year, ... I provide a solemn day of good intent for worshipping Heaven and for diligently attending to
the needs of the People. The Son of Heaven contributes one thousand mu and all noblemen [each] one
hundred mu ... I wish to order all officials responsible for local peace and authority to carry out the rite
of tilling the soil.” This decree is contained in Zhongguo difangzhi jicheng, vol. 14 (Jiangsu gazetteers):
“Yuanhe District in the Qianlong Period”, section: ‘Temples and Shrines’
, pp. 75-76.
21 See Zhongguo difangzhi jicheng, vol. 13 (Jiangsu gazetteers): “Qianlong changzhou xianzhi
” (“Changzhou District in the Qianlong Period”), section: ‘Tan-si’ 
(‘Temples and Shrines’), p. 54.
22ibidem:




20
192
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
superstitious beliefs.23 Local gazetteers can thus be a valuable “barometer” for
measuring the degree of orthodoxy allotted to a religious cult. Constituent components
of late imperial religious life that went unreported in this type of source must hence be
taken as an indicator of their perception as heterodox, or even “heretical” teachings.
This applies also in the case of Christianity, which went virtually unmentioned in
Qing gazetteers.24
b) Weeding out “heresy”
The legal codex of the Qing classified movements deemed to be inimical to the
natural, Confucian order as “heretical” (xie ), and their perpetrators were set on a
par with common criminals. The task of reporting and of eradicating signs of heresy at
village level was assigned to the district magistrate.25 A brief look at a local
persecution against suspected “sectarians” reveals the standard procedure of dealing
with sectarian insubordination: Having summoned the leaders of a group of (nominal)
converts of White Lotus background, the magistrate “listened, watched and read out”
(the legal statutes)26 and made his enquiries concerning the whereabouts of the
For instance in the gazetteer of 1686 for the Shunqing magistrature in Sichuan Province,
with its reference to “the simple-minded people with their respect for wooden idols”. Cf. Zhongguo
difangzhi jicheng, vol. 54 (Sichuan gazetteers): “Kangxi shunqing fuzhi ”
(“Shunqing Prefecture in the Kangxi Period”), section: ‘Si-si ’ (‘Shrines and Sacrifices’), p.
445. These adhortations seem in many ways reminiscent of the official policy in rural districts of the
People’s Republic of China after 1980.
24 For this thesis, the gazetteers for the best known centres of Christianity in northern and central China
were examined. The search results clearly indicated that Christian places of worship went unmentioned
- alongside those of the other “heretical” movements.
25 The Fu-hui quanshu contains a - brief - section dedicated to “Banning Heterodox Religious Sects”.
The instructions in the manual can be regarded as representative, since the author uses the standard
terminology employed by the prosecuting officials of the eighteenth century. See Huang Liuhong, A
Complete Book Concerning Happiness and Benevolence, juan 26, pp. 552-553 as well as John R. Watt,
The District Magistrate in Late Imperial China, New York and London: Columbia University Press
1972, pp. 185-196 (on baojia and xiangyue as policies of rural surveillance).
26 “El chi-cheu oyò, vio y leyò”, see the letter by M. F. Oliver to Kilian Stumpf (2 May 1718), reprinted
in Sinica Franciscana VIII, p. 960. A typology of official action from the local official to the highest
23
193
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
sectarians. Rather typically of late imperial justice, the magistrate expected the
missionaries as leaders and supreme elders of their congregation to deal themselves
with the criminal elements. Only when the missionaries insisted that they lacked the
manpower and punitive measures to keep the offenders from escaping, the sub-prefect
acted, by sending a dozen men who examined all suspects individually, using the
standard means of extracting the truth.27 Having concluded the interrogation, the
magistrate informed his superiors in the capital of Dongchangfu prefecture, where
three days later the chief judge for the province, the an-chasi , became
active. After all of the accused sectarians had been judged by the relevant minor
officials from their respective localities, the chief provincial judge heard the
confessions, most of which poured scorn over the Christian church and the
missionaries. That the state had not been inattentive became obvious when the
magistrates responsible for the case revealed a list comprising thousands of names
compiled by the sectarian leader Yang Dele, self-proclaimed “king” of his
movement.28 The same document also contains evidence about two sectarians from
neighbouring districts, who had sought the missionaries' protection. State officials
often skilfully exploited popular apprehensions against “heretical movements”, relying
in particular on the support of local heads and community leaders.29
echelons of the state administration can be found in Ch’ü T’ung-tsu, Local Government in China under
the Ch'ing, Stanford University Press 1969, pp. 1-6. See also Susan Naquin, Millenarian Rebellion in
China: The Eight Trigrams Uprising of 1813, New Haven and London: Yale University Press 1976, pp.
122-126.
27 ... algunos tormentos y èui pa zu [ i.e. blows in the face]. See the letter by M. F. Oliver to
K. Stumpf (2 May 1718), in Sinica Franciscana VIII, p. 963.
28 See ibidem, pp. 966-968. The case of Yang Dele is already referred to on page 111 ff. of this thesis.
29 In the case of the Xinglijiao affair of 1718, magistrates even relied on the information provided by
the leaders of the local Christian community. See ibidem, p. 968. In so doing, they followed the
recommended procedure for uncovering seditious movements in rural districts. See Huang Liuhong, A
Complete Book Concerning Happiness and Benevolence, p. 553.
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Already the imperial motto - qing i mplied the “purification” of the empire
from the corruption of their predecessors: Embezzlement, excessive influence of the
court eunuchs, libertarian attitudes in the arts and in the scholarly circles prevalent in
China’s most developed regions.30 Though cautious not to antagonise the Chinese
scholar-elite, linchpin of the imperial administration, Kangxi, the most illustrious of
the early Qing emperors, was adamant in his attempt to strengthen the moral fibre of
society.31 The Yongzheng emperor continued his quest to reinstate the authority of the
empire, mainly by investing into the local infrastructure (dykes, bridges and the
irrigation system) and through the provision of famine relief systems (public
granaries).32 A rapidly expanding population implied that the imperial administration
became increasingly stretched.33 In practical terms, the state relied on the co-operation
of the local elites for the up-keep of law and order in the countryside. The latter had to
count on the co-operation of the kinship organisations, the guilds and the village
elders when it came to policing the countryside against bandit activity, sporadic
popular violence and subversive tendencies within the rural population. This also
meant that any popular religious movement, as well as the missionaries of the
Christian religion, had to acknowledge the importance of the Confucian gentry,
30
The early Qing emperors’ dislike of the mores in China’s most flourishing region, the lower Yangtse
Delta (or Jiangnan ), is illustrated in Philip A. Kuhn, Soulstealers, pp. 71-72.
31 Most notably in the “Sacred Edict” of 1705, in particular in Commandment 7: “Expel heresy by
embracing the study of the morally correct” (). For the “Sacred Edict of the
Kang-Hsi Emperor”, see Hugh D. R. Baker, Chinese Family and Kinship, Appendix 1, p. 218.
32 Cf. Chow Kai-wing, The Rise of Confucian Ritualism, pp. 122-130 and 152-153. Also Feng Erkang
, Yongzheng zhuan ( “Biography of the Yongzheng Emperor”), Beijing: Beijing
People’s Press1 993 (1985).
33 During the eighteenth century, the administrative structure for the whole empire stagnated at around
thirteen hundred local administrative units, while the overall population nearly trebled in size. This
expansion, however, can also be explained as a reaction to the depletions of the Manchurian conquest
and the Three Feudatories warfare. See G. W. Skinner and M. Elvin, The City in Late Imperial China,
pp. 17-21. For a detailed case study on Sichuan, see the doctoral dissertation by Robert E. Entenmann,
“Migration and Settlement in Sichuan, 1644-1796”, PhD thesis: Harvard University 1982. A summary
with reference to Sichuan can also be found in P.-T. Ho, Studies on the Population of China, pp. 139-
195
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ultimately aiming to attract them to their cause. The structural and numerical
weakness of the state in the countryside was exacerbated by the latent tendency
towards corruption, a phenomenon which often provided the last escape route for
persecuted sectarians.34
Whatever its actual strength in the country, the state demanded the right to
influence the ideological culture of its subjects. The well-being of the state was
directly linked to the moral soundness of the people. State officials were expected to
extirpate expressions of misguided beliefs in order to safeguard stability within the
empire.35 The official hence saw himself as the extension of the emperor’s “motherand-father” (fu-mu ) function for the common people. Just as the omnipotent
paterfamilias had to punish disobedience in order to guarantee discipline for the
common good, the imperial official had to “protect” the innocent subject from
heretical and seditious ideas, which included the pursuit of superstitious practices, as
well as adherence to millenarian movements. Imperial laws stipulated the cangue,
hard labour and exile to the non-Han regions of the remote north and west as routine
punishment for “illegal sectarians” refusing to mend their ways.36 Though generally
accepted as part of China’s “orthodox” traditions, even Buddhism was by the middle
143. For China in general, see Pierre-Étienne Will, Bureaucratie et famine au dixhuitième siècle, Paris:
Mouton 1980, pp. 47-55.
34 As highlighted in the despairing memorial by censor Yi Zhongqing  of 8 December 1835,
detailing the collusion between suspected sectarians, state officials and soldiers. See de Groot,
Sectarianism and Religious Persecution, p. 519.
35 Cf. Chow Kai-wing, The Rise of Confucian Ritualism, pp. 57, 70-71. See also Mizoguchi Yuuzoo
 (translated into Chinese byWu Qilai ), “Ming-Qing shiqi de
renxinglun” (“Discourses on the Human Character during the Ming and
the Qing”),in Liu Junwen  and Xu Yang  Riben xuezhe yanjiu zhongguoshi lunshu
xuanyi  (“Selected Translations of Sinological
Contributions by Japanese Academics”),Beijing: Zhonghua shuju  1993, volume 7:
Sixiang zongjiao “ Philosophy and Religion”),pp. 162-167 and 171-175. 
36 The case of the Christian Li Chaoxuan , retold in the Shengxun, volume 102, forcefully
illustrates the determination of the Qing to root out the public profession of Christianity less than one
generation before the Unequal Treaties changed the position of Christianity permanently. The Shengxun
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of the Qing period regarded by many intellectuals as a dubious philosophy. If mainstream Buddhism was regarded as incompatible with the practical tasks of statecraft,
Christianity’s preoccupation with the supernatural rendered it beyond the pale of the
acceptable - as much as the court missionaries would want to stress its “rational”
nature. But as long as the foreign teachings were confined to the members of the
intellectual elite, little immediate harm was to be feared. During the eighteenth
century, however, the Qing empire had to face up to the threat of insurrections on a
massive scale, rooted in the millenarian traditions of Buddhism. Though Buddhist
millenarianism expressed itself through a panoply of sectarian movements, officials
during the Ming and Qing dynasties used the collective appellation of the “White
Lotus” (bailianjiao ) in order to designate “sectarian criminals” (jiaofan
).37 The following chapter will analyse how the fixation of state action against
“heresy” led to increased pressure on China’s Christian communities during the
eighteenth century. It will also illustrate the gradual shift of emphasis away from
decree of 7 January 1819 can be found in de Groot, Sectarianism and Religious Persecution, pp. 484485.
37 The term jiaofan  literally means “criminals of [religious] teaching”. The most well-known
such “criminals” were the White Lotus , Yuanjiao , Tiandihui and
Luojiao  - all derivatives of the Pure Land branch of Buddhism , which sought
salvation through whole-hearted recitation and meditation. Of Chan only two branches survived
(Lin ji  and Cao dong w
 ith only marginal appeal to the wider population, though popular
lore links the Triads to the Shaolin monastery, and therefore to Chan Buddhism. See Ya and Wang,
Zhongguo wushenlun shi, pp. 562-563, as well as Barend ter Haar, Ritual and Mythology of the
Chinese Triads, pp. 281-283 (and passim).
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specifically “anti-Christian” persecutions towards legal action aimed at “heretical”
mass movements in general.
Chapter 7:
Christianity as the target - A chronology of state action
The preceding chapter analysed the philosophical and legal foundations for
police operations against movements regarded as “heretical”. We arrived at the
conclusion that the borderline between prohibited heresy and tolerated heterodoxy was
determined by the central government and by local magistrates according to subjective
criteria (religious inclination, ethnic and social factors), as well as political ones
(pressure caused by “sectarian” insurrections, rivalries inside the imperial clan).1
During times of tranquillity, popular religious movements would normally enjoy the
benign neglect of the state officials, whereas the state would apply intense pressure
whenever its authority appeared threatened. The following chapter will analyse the
consequences of such subjective and political factors for the relationship between the
imperial government and the Christian communities within the Qing empire. Another
function of the chapter is to trace the development of the “Chinese church” in the
northern and central provinces of Han China. It is intended to provide a chronological
framework for the following three chapters, and should hence be read in conjunction
with these. For the present chapter, we will begin with the “initial event”- the imperial
edict of 1724, banning all missionary activity outside the capital and Macau.
1
In the words of Richard Smith: “When dissent became disloyalty, ‘heterodoxy’ became ‘heresy’”. See
Richard J. Smith, “Ritual in Ch’ing Culture”, in: Liu Kwang-Ching (ed.), Orthodoxy in Late Imperial
China, p. 304.
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1. The Yongzheng Edict of 1724
Against the background of the violent suppression of the Three Feudatories
and the pacification of the outer margins of their empire, the Qing government had
become accustomed to violent subversion within its borders and therefore perceived
any unauthorised gatherings as subversion against the state. After decades of
toleration, guaranteed by the imperial decree of 1692, China’s Christian communities
now began to feel the consequences of the state’s suspicion. Moreover, the relatively
harmonious relationship between the Jesuits at the imperial court and the Kangxi
emperor began to suffer under the strain of the Rites Controversy. Irritated by the
papal interference into the religious affairs of his own empire - including the lives of
his trusted Jesuit servants - the Kangxi emperor enforced a licence system (the socalled piao ) in December 1706, followed by a ban on proselytisation and on the
construction of new churches in May 1717. The atmosphere deteriorated even further
after the accession to the throne of the Yongzheng emperor in 1723. Stating
that foreigners created disorder in the empire by introducing a deity superior to
Heaven - the origin of the ruling dynasty’s claim to legitimacy - the governor for
Fujian, Zhang Boxing (1652-1725), submitted a petition requesting that all
foreign missionaries be expelled, the Christian communities dispersed, and their
churches converted into educational institutions.2 The governor was anything but a
friend of Christianity - and of the foreigners who imported the creed into his province.
His rationale was simple: Punitive measures were necessary to “rectify the minds of
the people, confused and dumbfounded by the foreign teaching, and to provide for a
morally healthy environment”. Uncontrollable elements had infiltrated his province,
2 A general account of the increasing pressure on the Christian missions during two first decades of the
eighteenth century can be found in B. Willeke, Imperial Government, pp. 9-18.
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taken advantage of the ignorance and innocence of his subjects and spread beyond
control.3
Though undoubtedly fired by a dislike of the Western religion, the petition
owed as much to the fratricidal politics of the Yongzheng emperor as to the hatred
between the Jesuits and their enemies in Europe. Following the ascent of antimissionary officials at Yongzheng’s court, and the arrest of a pro-Jesuit in charge of
missionary affairs and papal legations (Bursai, Chinese name Zhao Chang ) in
the first quarter of 1723, the senior official Zhang Pengge submitted three memorials
requesting the prohibition of Christianity in China, and the expulsion of all foreign
missionaries, except from Beijing “where they could be useful”. This request was
repeated at the beginning of 1724 by the Manchurian nobleman and governor general
of Fujian and Zhejiang, Gioro Manbao o r. The memorial,
together with a similar proposal by the Board of Rites in November 1723, was
endorsed by the Yongzheng emperor in an edict of 10 January 1724. The edict was
followed by three more (18 November 1725, 18 August 1732 and 21 August 1732),
authorising general persecutions against Christianity in the empire. It would be
simplistic to analyse these persecutions as mere expressions of personalised hatred
against Christianity - it was rather a case of the emperor’s wrath against the Christian
Sunu clan translating into state policy.4 The rapid fall from grace of the Sunu clan is
3
Listed in a letter by Domenico Perroni of 1723, with a subsection entitled: Editto del Mandarino Zumtu e Vicere di Fo-kien contro la religione christiana. The passage is quoted in Chinese:
. Cf. APF document SOCP, Indie
Orientali, 1723-1725, folium 147. The letter itself is part of the Continuazione delle Memorie della
Cina, which refers to the martyrium of Francisco Buccheretti and Giovanni Batista Messari, among
other missionary novices.
4 An edicts from the early years of the Yongzheng emperor’s rule, reprinted in Wang Zhichun,
Qingchao rouyuan ji, pp. 64-66, casts an interesting light on the discerning religious spirit of the young
emperor. The edict of YZ 5/4, i.e. May/June 1727, entitled “Declaring the similarities and differences
between Buddhism, Daoism and Christianity” (), is on a whole
condemnatory of Christianity, and makes direct reference to the Sunu affair. Already in his second year
on the throne (YZ 2/9, i.e. Oct./Nov. 1724), the Yongzheng emperor had declined to condemn the
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well documented, both through the surviving court records and in the relations of the
court missionaries. Sunu (1648-1725) and the heir-pretendersAcina (Yinsi
,1681-1726) and Seshe (Yintang  1683-1726) were members of
the imperial family who had embraced Christianity during the Kangxi period - the
family surrounding the direct descendent of Nurhaci and keeper of the Imperial
Genealogies (the yu die ).5 This politically motivated persecution soon
involved the entire offspring of Sunu, with “deviations from the Manchurian Way”
(buzun manzhou zhengdao ) given as the official reason.6 As a
general background to this turmoil we would recall that the Qing empire was still
struggling to quell rebellions threatening the legitimacy of the Manchurian overlords,
such as the 1707 Yinian rebellion, the chaos caused by Zhang Yunru
in 1724, and the continuous uprisings in Taiwan.7 The very same year saw
the promulgation of a series of laws aimed at countering the spread of “heretical
teachings” (xiejiao ) originating from all major religious traditions of the Qing
empire. These adverse conditions help explain why, throughout the brief but eventful
Yongzheng period, Christianity had been publicly marked as a subversive, “heretical”
practice of Islam in Shandong province. See Wang Zhichun, Qingchao rouyuan ji, p. 59. For more
information on the intrigues surrounding Yongzheng’s accession to power, see Feng Erkang, Yongzheng
zhuan, pp. 75-139.
5 See the paper by Eugenio Menegón, “Surniama Tragoedia: Religion and Political Martyrdom in the
Yongzheng Period”, presented at the Symposium on the History of Christianity in China, Hong Kong 24 October 1996. Even two hundred years after the event, the legal proceedings against members of the
Sunu clan were regarded as sufficiently important to use them as the opening documents to be reprinted
in Wenxian congbian. Such harsh punishments was of questionable success, especially in the light of
the case against two great-grandchildren of the Sunu family in 1814. Demotion and physical punishment
were insufficient deterrents against the will of the family to preserve their Christian traditions. See also
F. Margiotti, Il cattolicismo nello Shansi, pp. 190-191.
6 Wang Zhichun, Qingchao rouyuan ji, p. 64, contains an edict concerning the trial of Sunu’s son
Wuerchen .
7 For a more detailed picture of the insurrections during the early Qing period, see Zhou Yumin
and Shao YongZ
 hongguo huibang shi “ History of China’s
Brotherhoods and Societies”), Shanghai: Shanghai renmin chubanshe 1993,
chapter one. The rebellions on Taiwan flared up once again towards the end of the eighteenth century,
influenced by the Heaven and Earth Society (Tiandihui ). The importance the Qing attached
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creed, aiming to undermine the stability of the empire through involvement in court
affairs.8
To the remaining missionaries, such as Carolus a Castorano, the new policy
was an impediment: Provincial churches had to be abandoned for the safety of the
capital, buildings belonging to missionaries were confiscated, and the remaining
foreign pastors had to propagate their faith under cover of the night.9 To local
Christian communities, the consequences were often disastrous, forcing their leaders
underground in times of official investigation. To state officials the mere rumour of
belonging to a “heretical sect” was sufficient proof that Christians disturbed the local
peace and deserved to be punished. Village elders and members of the rural elite
(shenshi ) were urged to report suspicious communities wherever they could be
detected. Religious proselytisation was thus politicised, missionaries branded as
traitors.10 Thus we learn of an incident in the country town Guan xian (“Kuon hien”)
in Shandong Province, in the late Kangxi year of 1714, where officials and ordinary
villagers colluded against local Christians.11 Persecutions were often local in
character, and often failed to reach the attention of the imperial administration, since
to a merciless policy towards rebels of all persuasions is vividly illustrated in de Groot, Sectarianism
and Religious Persecution, pp. 340-349.
8 This is also the conclusion of J. J. M. de Groot. See his Sectarianism and Religious Persecution, pp.
273/274.
9 The observations are based on the diary of the Roman missionary for the years 1698-1724. The
document is preserved in the Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana as document Lat. Vat. 12849, entitled
Brevis narratio itineris ex Italia usq. ad Chinam.... It contains (next to a detailed baptismal record of
Chinese Christians) an account of individual persecutions against Christian villagers and missionaries
during this period, in particular of the official action against Christianity of 1714 in the Shandong
localities of Linqing (“Lin-zing” ) and Wucheng (“Vu Cing”).
10 Such as in the case of the (Chinese) missionary Cai Zu , arrested in Fujian province in YZ
11/12 (January 1734). ‘Traitor’ (jianmin )Cai Zuwas found in the company of two Portuguese
nationals and several books (including a volume entitled “Christian paintings and statues”, (tianzhujiao
tuxiang ). While the foreigners were evicted from the empire via Xiamen (Fujian
province), Cai Zu was executed through strangulation. See Wang Zhichun, Qingchao rouyuan ji, p. 86.
11 The characters of the name have yet to be identified. Recorded in the B.A.V. document Lat. Vat.
12849, folia 172, 175-176: Gentiles iterum accusavunt Xtianos quod essent sectariis; sic Mandarinus
predictus accusationem acceptavit et captura fieri iussit (“The gentiles accused the Christians of being
sectarians; the mentioned official agreed with the accusation and ordered their arrest”).
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undue candour could have negative repercussions for the career of the district
magistrate concerned. The diary of Matteo Ripa contains an interesting report relating
to the persecutions of 1714. The prefect (zhifu ) instructed his 72 local
constables (difang ) to retain the spread of Christianity as their personal secret.
In return, he promised that they would be entitled to partake in the distribution of
bribes collected from Christians who wanted to escape harsher treatment. The
secretive nature of the official action could not be carried out without the support of
anti-Christian (or at least sceptical) commoners, who were urged to report any cultic
activities which violated the traditional communal rites.12 The remaining foreign
missionaries thus had to struggle against the ever-increasing official pressure and
against the suspicions harboured by the local communities.13
The persecutions of the late Kangxi and of the Yongzheng were local in
character, rather than encompassing whole regions. They were concentrated in those
provinces, in particular Fujian province, where magistrates and circuit officials had
already been criticising the presence of missionaries.14 The unequal pattern of state
action against missionaries is reflected in the exasperated words of an unnamed
Dominican, writing to Rome from Changzhou at the end of 1733: ... quelle raison
12
Cf. the letter by Carlo da Castorano to Matteo Ripa in Michele Fatica (ed.), Matteo Ripa, Giornale
(1705-1724), Vol. II (1711-1716), pp. 344-345.
13 B.A.V. document Lat. Vat. 12849, folium 175: ...quia vero Gentiles ubique sunt nostri inimici, et
quotidie dehortanur fideles ut non seqantur Sanctam Leggem [sic] ..., multa machinari aperunt contra
Xtianos, S.tam Leggem, et europeos, que omnia retulerunt ... Mandarini seu officiali sectarios sever
punirent, exceptas tantùm tres sectas veras et bonas assertas Litteratorum, Tauriorum et Bontiorum.
(“The gentiles truly are our enemies wherever we go. Every day they admonish Christians not to follow
the Holy Faith ... Many schemes are being forged against Christians, and against the Europeans ... The
Mandarins or officials punish sectarians severely, except for those three sects acknowledged as being
truthful and good: Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism”).
14 The grave situation for missionaries and local Christians in the province had already been highlighted
by Domenico Perroni, in the Memorie della Cina.. The Yongzheng memorial sent shockwaves through
the missionary community, and was hastily translated for relay to Europe. Perroni’s Memorie also
contain a translation of the edict into Italian, reproduced, for instance, in his letter of 1724 to the
Propaganda Fide (cf. APF SOCP, Indie Orientali, 1723-1725, ff. 40-42 and 125-131). The case of
Fu’an (recorded in the Zhonggong zhupi zouzhe , no. 5, volume 294) in Fujian
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[ont] les Mandarins de Fou Kien de traiter les Missionnaires et leurs Chretiens avec
celle rigueur, lorsque les Mandarins de plusieurs provinces les laissent en paix?15
Other missionary accounts from the same region, such as the Remarques sur la
Relation de la persecution arrivée à la fin de 1733 ...16 by Antonio Enigues, and
similar writings by Matteo Ripa emphasising the unequal treatment of Christians and
Muslims by Fujianese officials,17 underline the frustration experienced by the
missionaries active in the province.18 While most local officials of the other provinces
in the empire shared the Fujianese view, regarding missionaries and converts alike as
lacking filial obedience and giving rise to trouble, reports from the late 1720s confirm
that at least in the Jiangnan, Christians were maintaining healthy links with local
officials. Despite the imperial edict, the magistrates of certain districts even connived
with the presence of European - as well as Chinese - missionaries. But to the
detriment of the China mission, frictions between the missionary orders weakened the
position of the missionaries immensely - and in particular that of the Jesuit order.19
The frustration was in particular felt by more senior missionaries, caused by the
tendency between rival orders to outshine each other with missionary success stories.
province is analysed in Ma Zhao, Shilun Qianlong shiqi (1736-1796) chajin tianzhujiao shijian, pp. 3637.
15 See APF, SC, Indie Orientali/Cina, 1733-1736, ff. 2-4. Wang Zhichun, Qingchao rouyuan ji, p. 80,
reproduces a memorial by the governor for Fujian, Liu Shiming , requesting imperial
authorisation for a general prohibition of Christianity in his province (). The
memorial, of YZ 8/5 (June/July 1730) clearly went beyond the existing prohibition against Christian
proselytisation.
16 See APF, SC, Indie Orientali/Cina, 1733-1736, ff. 166-177.
17 The document is entitled Relazione della Espulsione de Missionarii della Cina, and is filed at the
APF as SC, Indie Orientali/Cina, 1733-1736, folium 121R.
18 The negative attitude of the Fujian officials seemed still unchanged after the first twenty years of the
Qianlong period were drawing to their close. See Ma Zhao, “Shilun Qianlong shiqi (1736-1796) chajin
tianzhujiao shijian”, pp. 18-19 for concrete examples.
19 The localities are named as Song Kiang (Songjiang, in Zhejiang near Shanghai) and Chang hay
(Shanghai), both home to more than 100,000 Christians. The letter was composed by Antoine Gaubil
and sent to Paris on 6 November 1726. Cf. R. Simon (ed.), Le P. Antoine Gaubil, pp. 128-129.
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The despair felt by many was eloquently expressed by Johannes Müllener,
immediately after the Yongzheng edict had been issued:
Since the edict has come into force - the missionaries arrested and the
churches occupied and desecrated by the public militias - the Christians
and neophytes have been chased out of the city perimeters, with hardly any
money. The Certificate [of toleration], or Imperial Patent, ..., has been torn
up. And with it, the arrogance and the vanity, which made us seem so
great in China. It’s all over and vanished with the wind.20
2. The Qianlong and Jiaqing reign periods (1736 - 1821)
The first decade of the Qianlong emperor’s rule are best described as an
“unexpected opportunity” for the empire’s struggling Christian communities.
Following the harshness of the Yongzheng rule, China’s Christians pinned their hopes
on the figure of the incumbent Qianlong emperor. Though Hongli had grown
up under the tutelage of the Yongzheng emperor, he did not share his personal
aversion to the influence of the foreign men residing at court. The reasons for the
relative leniency of the subsequent policy towards Christianity can in fact be reduced
to the new emperor’s fascination with Western technology and art.21 The Qianlong
ruler’s initial anti-Buddhism and his positive attitude towards European civilisation,
20
Free translation of the original: Perciò si è messo in essecuzione il sudetto decreto, e li Missonarii
sono scacciati, le chiese restano occupate, e profanate per il publico servizio: li christiani e neophiti,
benche perseguitati in altri luoghi, con puochi danari, se tirano fuora de tra vagli. Il Diploma, ò
patente imperiale va ... per esser abbruggiato, e cosi l’arroganza e la vanità, questi noi ... fui cioè
grandi di Cina, è finita, e svanita col fumo. This letter by Müllener can be found in the Propaganda
archives as SOCP, Indie Orientali, 1723-1725, ff. 188-189.
21 The role of the painter Giuseppe Castiglione (Chinese name: Lang Shining ) - whose
work included depictions of the victorious Qing (Daqing tongyi jiangyu tu ),
European landscapes and the construction of the Yuanmingyuan  summer palace outside the
capital - has been widely speculated on. The fact that Castiglione never learnt to master the Chinese
language makes his reputation as the emperor’s favourite court missionary even more enigmatic. It
seems, however, certain that his quiet yet persistent interventions on behalf of China’s Christians left an
impression on the emperor, and it has even been argued that the paintings and robot toys produced for
the emperor did more for the advancement of Christianity in the empire than the composition of
theological tracts. See the unpublished conference paper by Alabiso Alida (Univ. La Sapienza, Rome)
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however, dissipated quickly following the death of his personal advisor Zhu Shi
(1665-1736). Despite a general amnesty, the emperor not only refused to alter his
father’s order, but reinforced legislation aimed at punishing Manchurian Bannermen
who entertained contact with Christian missionaries. Senior state officials had awoken
to the dangers of sectarian activities in the empire, and were furthermore still
influenced by the repressive atmosphere of the Yongzheng years. The uprising of the
Muslim population of Shaanxi in the years following his accession to the Throne
exacerbated the determination of certain anti-Christian elements within the official
elite to deal with the Christians effectively before they too would become a problem.
The anti-Christian edicts of the years QL 11 to QL 13 (1747-49) have to be seen in
this light.22 This was preceded by sporadic government action, such as in the winter of
1737, when officials seized the Chinese Christian Liu Er as he was about to
baptise a dying infant in a street in Beijing. Absolving street orphans before their
imminent death was one of the routine rites performed by the foreign missionaries,
giving rise to allegations of perversion and superstitious practices. The arrest and
subsequent trial of Liu Er gave state officials an opportunity to show their displeasure,
and put the friendship between the young emperor and the court missionaries to a first
test. Though the suggested death penalty could be converted to severe caning after
earnest pleading by court Jesuits, the incident and the ensuing confirmation of the
Yongzheng edict against missionary activity outside the capital area proved that the
“Castiglione and the Introduction of European Painting and Architecture in China” for the International
Symposium ‘China and the World in the Eighteenth Century’, Beijing June 1995.
22 And this despite repeated reassertions from Chinese Christians and European missionaries that the
two religions were not identical. See Ma Zhao, “Shilun Qianlong shiqi (1736-1796) chajin tianzhujiao
shijian”, pp. 30-32.
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initial optimism had been premature.23 With progressing age, he announced policies of
increasing severity. Owing to the personal intercession of court missionaries, however,
persecutions were brief and rarely resulted in direct fatalities. In contrast to the relative
leniency of the emperor, the anti-Christian attitude of the scholar officials discharged
itself through concerted efforts by the Board of Punishment (xingbu ) to wipe
out Christianity. The first edict which allowed local magistrates over the whole empire
to suppress Christian villages was issued in 1746, triggering a wave of state action
which lasted for almost two years.
In this context it is of vital interest to understand the persecutions against
Christian communities as part of the wider campaign against “heretical sects” which
was unfolding at the same time.24 The years between 1746 and 1748 were marked by a
vigorous offensive against expressions of millenarian Buddhism, such as the
Mahayana and Iron Ship teachings as well as the increasingly virulent Luo cult.25
These movements had proliferated in all parts of eastern China, but also in Zhili,
Shaanxi and in Sichuan, causing an increasingly uncompromising attitude towards
other movements which escaped the narrow definitions of orthodoxy. The propagation
of Christianity in Fujian, whether by Europeans or by local converts, was hence
perceived as a similarly debilitating act which deserved little mercy. The capital
punishment imposed on Bishop Sanz and on four other European priests by the
governor for Fujian province in September/October 1746 should in this context be
interpreted as the logical extension of the contemporary anti-heresy drive. The
The
incident
is
reported
in
Zhang
Ze
,
Qingdai
jinjiaoqi
de
tianzhujiao“ Catholic
Christianity
during
the
Qing
Prohibition”),Taibei: Guangqi Press1 992, pp. 120-121.
24 This also affected the highly popular syncretic movement founded by Lin Zhaoen. Three-in-One
temples were destroyed and often only survived under the disguise of Confucian academies, where the
deified Lin was displayed in the manner of the Confucian sages, mimicking the statues used for the
Song scholar Zhu Xi. See K. Dean, Lord of the Three in One, pp. 17-18.
23
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terminology used in the following exhortation against Christianity thus follows the
example of earlier anti-Buddhist agitation:
If there be people who with their Christian doctrine seduce men and women to
hold meetings and prayer-readings, they shall immediately be sought for,
arrested, and sentenced by the Law (against Heresy), according to whether they
are leaders or followers. And the Europeans shall all be arrested and sent to
Kwangtung, and from there within the fixed period of time embark for their
country; they shall not be tolerated to create troubles.26
A first definition of the differing natures of heterodoxy and heresy was
expressed by the Qianlong emperor, commenting on the successful campaign of
Yarhashan , governor general of the Jiangnan, against the proliferation
of Christian communities in the coastal provinces of the south-east. The Christian
belief of the Europeans, we learn,
is practised of old in their land, and has spread there, as in the case here with
the doctrines of the Buddhist monks and nuns, the Taoist clergy and the
Mohammedans; where indeed, do not such deviations from Orthodoxy exist?
But it is not to be compared with the heretical sects of the inner country, which
open halls to hold meetings, and are established here and there as seditious
elements. Europeans living at Canton and Macao, are not prohibited from
professing their religion amongst themselves, but this may not be considered
the same thing as natives of the inner country being drawn away by them one
by one to follow their example. Should they be found hiding anywhere in the
various departments, districts and villages, to inflame and mislead the ignorant
25
See de Groot, Sectarianism and Religious Persecution, pp. 282-287.
Memorial
to
the
Grand
Council
of
11
August
1746:

 (translated by de Groot). Ibidem, pp. 280/1.
26
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folk or cause men and women to meet together, this must of course be stopped
by rigorous means.27
For the remainder of the Qianlong period, the emperor’s words would be
translated into punitive action, starting with the persecutions of 1753 in Hubei, 1754
and 1759 in Fujian, in the 1760s in Sichuan, 1767 in Guangdong, 1768 in Henan and
1774 in Jiangxi province.28 Foreign missionaries were expressly forbidden to go
ashore, while traders had to limit their transactions to the port of Guangzhou.
Nevertheless, a number of European missionaries continued to make use of the
network established between Christian communities in the decades following the ban
on missionary activity. Penetrating the hinterland from the safehaven of Macau,
individuals from the West continued their pastoral activity. One such example is
Bernardo de los Santos, OFM (1725 - ?, alias Guo Bornadu ), who,
in the late 1750s, joined foreign missionaries (a certain Ding Diwo  and Lü
Baolu ) already active in Guangdong province.29 In a memorial entitled
“Investigation and Capture of Western Christians” (pan-huo xiyang tianzhujiaomin
), the senior official Wu Shitian provided details about
the itinerary and legal transgressions of Mr Guo and some of his confrères.
Predictably, the mere fact of having left the enclave of Macau in the pursuit of
missionary work was cited as being contrary to Qing laws. We also learn how Guo
27



T
 ranslated by de Groot, in ibidem, p. 288.
28 See Ma Zhao, “Shilun Qianlong shiqi (1736-1796) chajin tianzhujiao shijian”, p. 19. See also, for
Sichuan, Léonide Guiot, La Mission du Su-tchuen au XVIIIme siècle, p. 149.
29 The identity of the other two individuals still needs to be ascertained; the memorial is dated 25
December 1759. See FHA, scroll 9258, original document 492, sub-number 12, frames 311-313. The
case is reiterated in a memorial of 28 July 1760.
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Bornadu utilised long-established connections between the European missionary
orders and local Christian communities, providing a list of Christian households the
culprit had been sighted in. Frequenting the country lanes connecting the Cantonese
mainland with Macau, the missionary obtained and distributed “heretical scriptures”
(xieshu ). Moreover, the missionary had established connections with a local
Christian who promised that he could print and distribute two hundred of these
scriptures in Jiangxi province.30 Afraid of the inflammatory (literally “deceptive and
confounding” pian-huo ) effects of the unchecked proliferation of heterodox
literature, the state officials decided to adopt a hostile stance against Christians who
co-operated with foreign missionaries. A localised persecution of 1765 in Henan was
followed by more widespread action in the imperial capital and the Hunan-Hubei
region.31
After more than a decade’s respite, the Qianlong persecutions continued in five
successive waves during the years 1784 and 1785. The persecutions followed the end
of a military campaign against Muslim insurgents in Gansu province, and were
triggered by the discovery in December 1784 of two priests in the vicinity of Xi’an.32
The persecutions had their most immediate effect on the Christians of Zhili, although
other provinces quickly followed suit. The governor general for Shaanxi and Gansu,
Le Bao , had soon acquired a reputation for zealous action against heterodox
30
Ibidem, frame 313.
See Zhang Ze, Qingdai jinjiaoqi de tianzhujiao, pp. 79-80.
32 Both the campaign against the Gansu “Wahhabees” and the discovery of the Christian priests are
covered in de Groot, Sectarianism and Religious Persecution, pp. 311- 329 and 329 - 335, respectively.
The intercepted priests were Francisco Maria Magni, OFM (Nima Fangjige , 17231785) and Manuel Ma (or Manuel Gonsalvez). Magni had been active in the China mission for
twenty-three years at the time of his discovery, whereas Ma, born in 1742 of Chinese parents but
adopted by Portuguese parents, had worked for 13 years in the Shaanxi mission. For these biographical
details, see B. Willeke, Imperial Government, pp. 85-86, notes 48 and 49.
31
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movements of any denomination.33 The ensuing interrogations produced evidence of
thriving Christian communities in other parts of Shanxi and Shaanxi, as well as of
connections with the central-eastern provinces of Hunan, Hubei, Zhili and Shandong.
The fact that a certain number of Europeans were discovered after decades of covert
activity gave the state officials additional cause to pursue punitive action.34 The antiheresy drive of the 1780s culminated in a first major campaign against the Eight
Trigram movement, following an uprising in Shandong province. Shandong had
already gained notoriety as the origin of the Wang Lun uprising of 1774, and exerted a
magnetic attraction to similar heterodox movements.35
a) Persecutions in Korea
Following the edict of 1724, the diocese of Beijing was shorn of the
surrounding regions of Northern China, Mongolia and Korea which had originally
been under its theoretical pastoral care when established in 1690.36 Of these three
regions, the Korean church in particular had acquired relevance.37 Due to its
geographical and political isolation, Korea had been out of bounds for the early
33
See, for instance, de Groot, Sectarianism and Religious Persecution, p. 326. See also the detailed
analysis in B. Willeke, Imperial Government, pp. 75-95.
34 De Groot, Sectarianism and Religious Persecution, pp. 329 - 334 contains a reprint of the relevant
memorial (23 December 1784), emphasising the discovery of Europeans in the Chinese heartland. The
evidence produced by the provincial governor Bi Yuan , however, merely serves to stress the
degree of autonomy which the indigenous Christian communities had attained, largely independent of
any European help. In this context - in a memorial from the year 1805 - we will also once more
encounter the Christian Simon Liu, referred to in de Groot’s source as “detected ... but not yet captured”
(chu, weihuo ).
35 This is particularly true for the Grand Canal city of Linqing , which had already been the
main flashpoint of the Wang Lun uprising and which would also become the main locus of the Eight
Trigrams rebellion of 1813. See S. Naquin, Shantung Rebellion, p. xiii ff. for a brief account of
sectarian insurrections during the late Ming (1622) and Qing.
36 The changing delineations of the missionary regions in China can be followed in de Moidrey, La
Hiérarchie Catholique, pp. 246-261.
37 The standard history of the Catholic missions to the “hermit kingdom” during the eighteenth and
nineteenth centuries is Charles Dallet, Histoire de l’Eglise de Corée, précédée d’une introduction sur
l’histoire, les institutions, la langue, les moeurs et coutumes coréens, Paris: Librairie Victor Palmé
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European missions established in Japan and in China. It is commonly assumed that the
first shoots of Korean Christianity began no earlier that in March 1784, with the return
from Beijing of the Korean Christian Lee Sung-hun, baptised and prepared for
mission by the Qing-court Jesuit Jean-Joseph de Grammont.38 Recent research,
however, suggests that sizeable Christian communities existed in Korea from as early
as 1605. The Korean church can thus be regarded as having generated itself without
any direct foreign influence.39 The pre-missionary church owed its existence to the
exposure to Japanese Christianity during the invasions orchestrated by Toyotomi
Hideyoshi (1592 and 1597), and in particular to converted slaves who were allowed to
return to their Korean homeland.40 Slave-converts soon earned a reputation of
extraordinary devotion to their new faith, defying the ever-increasing pressure of the
Tokugawa inquisition.41 These qualities would later prove indispensable in Korea,
too, during the anti-Christian persecutions of the late eighteenth century.42 Throughout
its early period, links with Christian communities in Japan and China, as well as
religious writings by Western missionaries, enabled the Korean communities to
1874. The ensuing period of Protestant proselytisation is summarised in Allen D. Clark, A History of
the Church in Korea, Seoul: The Christian Literature Society of Korea 1971.
38 Dallet’s account begins with the period between 1784 and 1794, which witnessed the arrival of a
Jacques Tsiou (Zhou Wenmo), prêtre chinois and envoy of the Bishop of Beijing, as well as the
proselytism of the convert Ni Tek-tso (Piek-i). See Ch. Dallet, Histoire de l’Eglise de Corée , volume 1,
pp. 26-82.
39 This is at least the opinion of Juan Ruiz-de-Medina, supported by his own research and by recent
contributions by Korean scholars. See Juan Ruiz-de-Medina (John Bridges, trans.), The Catholic
Church in Korea: its Origins 1566-1784, Rome: Istituto Storico Societatis Iesu 1991 (translated from
the Spanish original Orígenes de la Iglesia Catòlica Coreana, Rome 1987), pp. 7-9. The very first
contacts with Christian thought originated from the distribution of Christian catechisms in classical
Chinese towards the end of the sixteenth century. See ibidem, pp. 77-79. By the 1620s, the number of
Christians in Korea had risen to several thousand (see pp. 88 and 130-131).
40 See J. Ruiz-de-Medina, The Catholic Church in Korea, p. 110, note 26 (on Hideyoshi’s decree to
release Korean slaves/prisoners of war, based on a contemporary letter by the Franciscan Martín de la
Ascensión). The very first “Christians”, by the way, were some two hundred infants, abandoned by
parents fleeing the advancing Japanese troops and baptised by a conquering Christian samurai. See
ibidem, p. 74. A vivid example of samizdat-style copying of catechisms in Chinese characters by
Korean prisoners in Japan is presented on p. 87.
41 An interesting reference from the seventeenth century commenting on the steadfastness of Korean
Christians in Japan - women in particular - can be found in G. Elison, Deus Destroyed, p. 207.
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sustain their religious zeal. After the anti-Christian persecutions and the proclamation
of protective isolation by the Tokugawa bakufu, the Korean communities looked to
the mission in Beijing for spiritual guidance.43 Hierarchical structures were created
which mirrored those of the missionary church in Beijing, but which remained
practically independent of the mother-mission in the capital. Independence also
prevailed in theological terms, in particular with reference to the Confucian ancestor
rites.44 Despite successive waves of persecution during the first half of the nineteenth
century, the number of Christians increased to over thirteen thousand by the year
1855, when the first Korean priest, Kim Tai-Kon faced execution. Attempts by
Catholic and Protestant missionaries alike to overcome the anti-Christian laws of
Korea were ultimately crowned with success.45 Around the same time, in itself a clear
sign of inculturation, the syncretic “Celestial Way” movement (Ch’ondo-gyo
) was proliferating in Korea. Under the leadership of the charismatic Ch’oe
Che-u  (1824-1864), the religion had particular appeal amongst the rural
population, many of whom had converted to Catholicism, but who had not
surrendered their belief in the spirits which had been governing life in their villages
from times immemorial. On a more intellectual plane, the inculturation of Christian
elements produced a cross-fertilisation of religion and philosophy reminiscent of
Taiping ideology. The Christian god, venerated as the “Supreme Emperor” (),
supervised a celestial hierarchy inhabited by ancient Korean spirit creatures,
42
See A. Clark, A History of the Church in Korea, pp. 50-51.
Often via the Christian communities established since the early eighteenth century in Liaodong
province. See J. Ruiz-de-Medina, The Catholic Church in Korea, pp. 172-174.
44 ... at least until the Beijing bishops imposed the results of the Rites Controversy on their Korean
neighbours. See A. Clark, 1971, pp. 49-50.
45 See A. Clark, A History of the Church in Korea, pp. 53-54. On the Catholic side, the French orders
took over the role of protector of all Catholic missions. The most important attempts made by Protestant
missionaries were those of Carl Gützlaff (1832), Robert J. Thomas (1865/66), John Ross and John
43
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Confucian sages, Buddhist and Christian saints. The socio-political essence distilled
out of this syncretic whole was referred to as the “Eastern Teaching” (tong-hak
), and called for a thorough-going transformation of the existing political
system. The guardians of the latter responded with little sympathy, and beheaded
Ch’oe Che-u in 1864, bringing the movement to its (official) end.46
McIntyre (1867 and 1874-1884), as well as by the returned Korean student Rijutei (Yi Kyoo-Tai) who
converted while studying in Japan. See ibidem, pp. 59-68.
46 Cf. James Huntley Grayson, Early Buddhism and Christianity in Korea, pp. 82-83.
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b) The Christian heartland at the turn of the century
Meanwhile the situation was becoming more difficult even in the Chinese
capital. The death of Bishop Bernardinus della Chiesa in December 1721, though the
bishop had never actually resided in the capital, ushered in a period of increasing
instability for its Christians. His successors47 encountered mounting difficulties in
extending their protection from the four churches of the capital into the surrounding
provinces. At the outset of the Qianlong years, the Jesuits residing in the capital
accounted for twenty-two priests, including six employed by the Imperial Court and
five Jesuits of Chinese nationality. The figures for the year 1785 reveal that both the
total number and the ethnic proportion remained largely unchanged - seven Chinese
priests compared to sixteen foreigners.48 It was from these Beijing-based
congregations that the Christian communities in surrounding Zhili Province gained
their logistical and moral support during a period when the missionary presence in the
provinces was limited and transient.49 The authority of European Christianity had been
greatly weakened by the consequences of the Rites Controversy, and finally also by
the dissolution of the Society of Jesus in 1773. Following the imperial ban on
missionary activity outside Beijing and Macau, any work by European or Chinese
47
Francisco da Rocha Froes (died June 1733), Polycarpo Souza (died May 1757), Damascenus Salutti
(left office April 1780), Alexander de Gouvea (died July 1807), and finally Joachim de Souza-Saraiva
(in office until 1818 - not to be replaced by a residing bishop until 1826) - see Zhao Qingyuan
Z
 hongguo
tianzhujiao
jiaoqu
huafen
jiqi
shouzhang
jieti
nianbiao“ Annual Compendium of
the Dioceses and their Leaders in Catholic China”), Tainan: Wen-dao chubanshe
W
 en-Dao Press)1980, p. 27.
48 The persecution of 1785 represent the second high tide of persecutions during the Qianlong period.
See Ma Zhao, “Shilun Qianlong shiqi (1736-1796) chajin tianzhujiao shijian”, pp. 17-18.
49 Zhao Qingyuan’s figures also mirror the scarcity of priests in the rest of the empire: the Nanjing
diocese only counting one foreign priest alongside Laimbeckhoven, six Chinese and three European
priests for the whole of Sichuan Province, four Spanish Dominicans and three Chinese patres in Fujian
Province, plus one of the former in Shandong. The double-province of Guangdong and Guangxi
counted one foreign priest each, while Shanxi was under the spiritual guidance of three Chinese fathers.
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missionaries was, by definition, clandestine.50 A well-documented example is the
Austrian Father Laimbeckhoven, Bishop of Nanjing from the 1770s until 1785, who
spent most of his time as a missionary travelling under cover of the night on barges
and along forsaken country lanes.51 Any home or hostel which granted him
accommodation did so at their own peril, as magistrates offered payment in cash to
any informer. Other European missionaries braving the perils of the Qianlong
persecutions included the Italian M. Correa, as well as de Lamatte, de la Roche and
Pottier from France.52 Indicative of the isolation facing missionaries during this period
is the request for spiritual support by the Chinese cleric Cassius Joseph Taj, sent by
letter to the Vatican on 25 December 1779.53 In his missive, Taj reports having
contracted a “disease resembling leprosy” caused by the adverse climate. Combining
this fatal physical illness with the status of a heretical criminal, this double outcast
was resigned to the fact of having forsaken the sympathy of the people in his native
land - Christians and gentiles alike. Deprived of all material support, the medics
refused to offer any further help, and the only hope now rested with the prayers of the
faithful in China and in Rome. The letter continues to emphasise the scorn poured out
by the literati, as well as the dangers of the roving, nocturnal existence.54 All,
50
It has been estimated that at least forty missionaries were risking their lives for the propagation of
their mission. See “Ma Zhao, Shilun Qianlong shiqi (1736-1796) chajin tianzhujiao shijian”, p. 8.
51 Gottfried-Xavier Laimbeckhoven S.J. (1707-1787, Nan Huairen - Laimbeckhoven shared
his name with Ferdinand Verbiest, 1623-1688) is mentioned in conjunction with his successor as
Coadjutor Bishop of Nanjing Nathanaël Bürger OSF (1733-1780) in de Moidrey, La hiérarchie
Catholique, pp. 28-30 (see also the annex on Bürger, ibidem, pp. 242-243).
52 For a vivid description of this period, see Joseph Krahl, China Missions in Crisis - Father
Laimbeckhoven and his Times, 1738-1787, Rome: Gregorian University Press 1964. Mgr Pottier’s fate
is renarrated in the appendix (note C) of Léonide Guiot, La Mission du Su-tchuen au XVIIIme siècle,
pp. 472-480.
53 APF, SC, Indie Orientali/Cina, 1779-1781, folium 236R.
54 Ibidem. The passage in the original: Hinc ergo Eminentia Vestra sciat, velim, infirmitatem non
aliam, quam leprosa specia infecta ...; eo facto non solum domi manere, quinimo abscondere, quoniam
apud Sinicam nationem est maxima iniuria praesertim familias civilioribus, ac dignitate praecinctis.
Hoc quidam non aliunde, scienti gentiles maledicunt de me praejudicantque, quam re ex humore hujus
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however, was not lost. The remaining missionary presence yielded several seminaries,
which were as much a secret as missionary activity as such. Foreign missionaries took
special care of the young Chinese novices, on whom the whole mission would soon
have to rely. To offer the most thorough theological training, the young Christians
were taken to the seminaries in the capital or in Macau - the two areas excluded from
the general prohibition of missionary activity. During the latter half of the century, the
Missions Etrangères de Paris expanded from their earlier operations in Siam,
establishing centres of theological training for novices from China. The priests of the
Chinese College at Naples were soon to join their Parisian confrères in the erection of
missionary colleges in China.55 But also in the provinces seminaries developed, most
prominently in the flourishing Christian communities of Sichuan.56 The last
persecutions of the Qianlong period, though initially successful in the very heartland
of Chinese Christianity - the diocese of Nanjing, as well as in the imperial capital
itself - lost momentum due to the resistance of local officials sympathetic to
Christianity.57 In a report produced for the Vatican, the Chinese convert Francesco
Maria Zen gave a description of the situation for the Christians in Nanjing towards the
end of the eighteenth century: Though reduced in size, lacking an official clerical
hierarchy and deprived of overt places of worship, the community was nevertheless
very active, congregating secretly in order to escape the attention of officials and
mischievous neighbours. The official structure of clerical life had been damaged
climatis, et rore caeli provenit qui sunt maxime nocivi eiusque iis salute inconstantibus. ... Licet hoc
infirmitas itasic odiosa, in Deo tamen non desper[ar]me, ....
55 The correspondence between the Chinese novices of Naples and their mother country has been
illustrated by Francesco D’Arelli and A. Tamburello, in La Missione Cattolica in Cina tra i secoli.
56 The Seminary of the Sacred Birth was situated in the depths of the Phoenix Mountains, in the vicinity
of Chengdu. The centre accommodated nearly seven hundred novices and formed the basis for
missionary activity in and south of Sichuan. See Zhang Ze, Qingdai jinjiaoqi de tianzhujiao, pp. 156 159.
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beyond repair - a situation which was nowhere as evident as in Nanjing, the former
centre of gravity of Chinese Christianity. Missionary correspondence from the end of
the century confirms that in
the city of Nanjing ..., following the persecutions against the professors of
the faith, the number of Christians has diminished. Most preachers have
left because of the troubles, ..., the Bishop is still here for the time being,
administering his office in hiding, and also the missionaries of these parts
carry out their work secretly.58
The attitude of the Jiaqing government towards Christianity changed
from a policy of benign neglect during its first decade to one of relentless persecution
for the remaining fifteen years. It has frequently been remarked that the tolerance of
the first years had its roots in genuine ignorance, aided by the remaining court
missionaries, who extolled the merits of Western technology and fine arts to the young
emperor while deliberately deflecting from their continuing missionary work. Another
factor was the clandestine nature of all missionary activity, following the harshness of
the latter Qianlong years: To the officials of the capital, rural Christianity was very
nearly “invisible”.59 This superficial image of inactivity caused the inexperienced
emperor to believe that the Christian problem had been sufficiently “dealt with” 57
Such as De Pei, governor-general of the Hu-Guang double-province, a secret Christian who assisted
the persecuted community throughout his official life (1688-1752; baptised together with his wife and
daughter in 1718). See J. Krahl, China Missions in Crisis, pp. 3-4 and 9-10.
58 See APF, SC, Indie Orientali/Cina, 1779-1781, ff. 283-284 and 266-269. Civitas de Nankin ...,
quorum tamen Christianorum numerus post postremas persecutiones ab ethnicis in Christianae fidei
professores excitatos, hanc parim diminutus existit. ... sed his fere omnibus predicatorum
persecutionum turbine eversis, quem in dicta Nankinensis civitate ad praesens nulla neque cathedralis
neque Parochialis ecclesia reperiatur, episcopus pro tempore existens, ibi Pontificialia occulte peragit,
ac Missionarii in dictis Provinciis existentes, clam animorum curam exercent. Of interest, in this
context, is a memorial from the Yongzheng period (YZ 8/5, i.e. June/July 1730, by the governor general
of Zhejiang province, Li Wei). The memorial announced the destruction of Nanjing’s cathedral
in order to deter the citizens of Nanjing from future conversion and in order to leave a forceful
impression on any [illegal] foreign visitors ().
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while in reality foreign mercantile and missionary activity in the southern border
regions escaped the effective control of the imperial government. Furthermore, many
of the areas with Christian communities lived in penury, which deflected the attention
of the magistrates, who concluded that not enough fiscal gain could be expected to
warrant the arduous journey to remote villages.60 The year 1796 was a turning point
for the Qing dynasty, who - having been spared dangerous insurrections for most of
the eighteenth century - now saw themselves confronted with unrest emanating from
the White Lotus movement from Gansu in the West to Henan in the east of the
Chinese heartland.61 Earlier uprisings, such as the Wang Lun rebellion of 1774 and the
White Lotus rebellion of 1786 could be quelled within a matter of months. The great
uprising of the 1796 took seven years to be pacified, leaving the greater part of the
White Lotus movement outside the area of suppression by and large intact. In an effort
to regain the initiative, the Qing government promulgated a series of general
persecutions against religious movements, which also targeted the Christian
communities.
59
This fact is confirmed in numerous examples of missionary correspondence, such as the letter by the
Chinese priest Petrus Maria Lai, who refers to his missionary pasture grounds of northern Hu-Guang as
being “at peace” (Missio ... gaudet statu pacis). APF, SC, Indie Orientali/Cina, 1779-1781, folium 117.
60 See ibidem (verso) on the effects of a failed harvest and the effects of price inflation in a poor district
in Hubei.
61 Cf. Barend ter Haar’s study on the nature and official interpretation of the White Lotus phenomenon
in Late Imperial China: B.J. ter Haar, The White Lotus Teaching, p. 295 ff. See also de Groot,
Sectarianism and Religious Persecution, pp. 350-382.
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3. The Adeodato affair and the persecution of 1805
The effects of the persecutions unleashed at the beginning of the nineteenth
century, in contrast to the relative leniency of the Qianlong years, were very painful
for China’s Christian communities. The first spate of government action was sparked
off in 1805 by the discovery of a map outlining the boundaries of the areas of
missionary influence in China. Frater Adeodato di San Agostino (OSAD, Chinese
name De Tianci , an Italian belonging to the contingent of the Propaganda,
intended to inform his Augustinian confrères about the areas administered by
missionaries of the Augustinian order. The map was discovered due to “a substantial
lack of prudence displayed by the Europeans in Beijing, who transported many pages
of letters interspersed among a great number of books in Chinese on matters of the
Holy Faith.”62 The state officials then suspected this map as being part of a European
plot against the state, or possibly an invasion of the Qing coast from the east. The
account by Emmanuele Conforti on the reasons for the anti-Christian state action
continues with the chain of events which provided the spark igniting persecution, the
effects of which were to be felt throughout the century.
Having worked in the Forbidden City for more than thirty years, Adeodato
knew the conditions of the empire well. In 1804, the same year when Gaetano Pires
Pereira (Chinese name Bi Xueyuan), a court astronomer in the capital, was
selected by Pius VII to become bishop of Nanjing, a Portuguese missionary instructed
the Chinese Christian Chen Ruowang to travel to Beijing. The object of the
mission was to collect a map and a letter outlining a missionary dispute affecting the
62
Un imprudenza non considerata dalla parte degli Europei Pekinesi, in rimettere molti plichi di
lettere interessanti con gran copia de libri cinesi trattandi di materie della Santa Religione... . This is
the beginning of the account by Emmanuele Conforti on the persecution of 1805. Cf. APF document
SC, series III, Cina and Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, folium 398 R.
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border area of Zhili and Shandong from Adeodato’s own hands.63 The map sketched
the areas between Dezhou and Qiuzhou in Shandong as well as Guangpingfu and
Jingzhouin Zhili, and included the coastal shores of the province of Shandong.64 Once
he had returned to the Portuguese, bearing the Chinese name Li Shide, in
Guangzhou, he was to convey the map to Macau, and thence to the Vatican for
inspection. In February 1805 Chen Ruowang was intercepted by soldiers under the
command of the superintendent for Jiangxi Province, Qin Cheng’en . An
indignant superintendent Qin informed the emperor that “letters bearing both Western
and Chinese script” had come into his possession, indicating that the foreign court
official Adeodato had intended to pass on subversive materials on the provincial
borders of Shandong to foreign powers. With the visit of the Macartney mission to the
late Qianlong emperor still in fresh memory, and reports of increasing activity by
English merchant and naval vessels in neighbouring parts of Asia becoming a
common occurrence, the Jiaqing emperor suspected that the final recipient of map and
information was the British crown.65 Following scrutiny of the testimonies - mainly
provided by Christians employed in the capital and from areas in Shandong and Zhili the Board of Punishment gained a detailed picture of the intimate relationship between
the foreign residents of Beijing and their fellow Christians outside the boundaries of
the capital. This insight, reports of increasing Christian activity in the provinces, and
the fact that numerous Bannermen had entered the disdainful creed against all
prohibitions, gave the Jiaqing emperor the impression that no time could be lost if the
heretical religion was to be contained. In an edict promulgated in the fifth month of
63
The dispute was between missionaries belonging to the Portuguese padroado (CM) and those of the
Propaganda (OFM).
64 I soldati aperte le lettere, in una di queste ritruovata una mappa delicata a mano ... a caratteri
cinesi di varii luoghi della provincia di Xan-Tung ... e sue finanze col mare. (Ibidem)
65 The Macartney mission is discussed in chapter 10.
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his tenth year on the imperial throne, the emperor took up the incident involving the
discovery of the Adeodato map and used its potentially subversive character as the
immediate reason for action against the foreign religion:
The foreigners believe in the teaching of the Lord of Heaven, and as
they followed the customs of our country there was never any reason to
ban it. And when they set up churches in the capital district, this was only
done in order to assist us in astronomy by using their Western methods...,
but they were not allowed to have regular contact with commoners from
the provinces. And yet this De Tianci had the gall to stealthily spread his
religion...., to instruct simple-minded commoners in order to confound
women, and to lead many a Bannerman into his creed. ... If we did not
adopt strict measures, how else could we stop the heresy and put an end to
all of this?66
During the interrogation, Adeodato reminded the state prosecutors that he had
acted within the limits of the law, since he was travelling from Beijing to Macau using
the shortest route, without intending to stop en route in order to proselytise. Nor had
the map itself been written by him (it happened to be a copy of his map), but for the
sake of honesty he admitted that the romanisations of the Chinese place names
stemmed from his nib. This admission proved fatal, both for the missionary in person
and for the China mission in general. The chief state official announced that due to the
machinations of the foreign missionaries and the depraved nature of the foreign
religion in general, the emperor was now no longer inclined to tolerate the Christian
religion in his empire.67 Most of the Chinese accomplices, including the leading
figures of Christian life in Beijing as well as the brother of the eminent missionary
Paul Ge, Ge Tianfu, were given the choice between apostasy and gaol. Once they had
turned their backs on their former faith, it was stated, they would be free to pursue
their normal lives, though always under the auspices of the yamen officials, and with
the threat of more severe punishment in case of further transgressions. As most of the
See Daqing renzong rui huangdi shilu  (“Veritable Records of the
Jiaqing Emperor”), juan 142, JQ 10/5/28 (25 June 1805).
67 ... qual Ministerio di Stato avendola annunziato che l’Imperatore vuole annientare la Religione
Cristiana nel suo imperio ... Cf. APF SC, series III, Cina and Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, folium 398
V.
66
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Beijing Christians refused to comply with the “amnesty”, the sentences were
announced: Deportation to Yili - “six months’ distance from Beijing” - where the
Christians would be given as slaves to the local Barbarians, as well as being forced to
wear the cangue for a period of three months, a terrore de’ populari.68 The emperor
rejected the initial suggestion of the Board of Punishment to have Adeodato deported,
deciding instead to exile the missionary to Jehol (Chengde), beyond the boundaries of
China proper, where he would be under the direct supervision of the Board of Military
Affairs.69 The punishment was communicated to all districts in the empire in order to
state a warning to China’s Christian communities, in particular against those who
were collaborating with European missionaries in order to facilitate the entry of the
latter.70 The highly publicised verdict and the ensuing state action, which embraced all
the provinces where Christian communities were known or suspected, put
missionaries, both of European and Chinese origin, into the worst position since the
persecutions of the mid-eighteenth century.71 The Adeodato affair influenced the Qing
elite’s perception of Christianity significantly. After three generations of a quickly
diminishing foreign presence, and the growing awareness that Chinese Christianity
had become an “internal” phenomenon, the stigma of Christianity’s “alien origin” was
now being reattached.72 The negative consequences of the foreign missionaries’ effort
for China’s indigenous communities were set to intensify over the subsequent
decades.
68
Cf., ibidem, folium 399 V.
Adeodato was eventually allowed to leave the Qing empire, whereupon he decided to move to the
Philippines. He died in Manila in 1821.
70 ... paraque quede totalmente abolida la propagacion de su secta y que no corrompa y mude los
coraciones de los hombres - “in order to relinquish the propagation of his sect and in order to abstain
from corrupting and changing the minds of the people”. Cf. the Propaganda report on the Adeodato
affair, in APF SOCP, Indie Orientali, 1817, ff. 34-35. The accusation of selling out the Chinese empire
to foreigners was aimed at Chinese subjects such as Paul Ge [Ko], who had accompanied the Macartney
embassy and was to become active in Zhaojiazhuang, Zhili province.
71 The edict was dated Jiaqing 10/4/10, i.e. 8 May 1806. A letter attached to the above report, sent from
Macau on 30 January 1806, illustrates the “almost physical impossibility” to support the existing
missionary stations - Although this statement refers only to the Christian communities where European
missionaries were involved. Cf. ibidem, folium 35 R.
72 ... though a multitude of religious cases would continue to refer to Christianity without the slightest
reference to any foreign roots or connections. For evidence see, for instance, the decree concerning the
treatment of arrested Sichuanese Christians (tianzhujiaoren ) of 2 July 1815, cited in de
Groot, Sectarianism and Religious Persecution, pp. 478-479.
69
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4. The Persecution of 1811 and its aftermath
The beginning of the nineteenth century was a time of increasing sectarian
activity and concomitant repression by the Qing authorities. The state’s anti-heresy
campaign reached an early climax with the suppression of the Eight Trigrams
Uprising in 1813.73 Other cults based on religious concepts closely related to the Eight
Trigrams emerged throughout Han China. The Eight Trigrams (bagua ),
headed by Lin Qing , were akin to the White Yang (Baiyang s ect thus
also to the Red Yang (Hongyang ) sect.74 Other religious movements
condemned by the authorities were the Father and Mother sect (Fumuhui ),
the Society of Increase of Novices (Tiandihui probably a synonym for
theHeaven and Earth Society, Tiandihui ), the Pure Tea (Qingchamen
),
Mahayana
(Dashengjiao
)
and
Incense
Smelling
(Wenxiangjiao ) teachings, as well as the Society of Three in One
(Sanhehui ) in Guangdong. Officials reported the occurrence of such
heterodox movements in the usual condemnatory style. “Men and women indecently
congregating”
for
cultic
purposes
(nannü
hunza
huxiang
xijiao
), for instance, was an allegation generically allotted to
religious communities deemed “heretical”. This categorisation included the Mahayana
cult as much as the steadily growing Christian communities, and called for the
relentless punishment of Christians and other “sectarians”. “Of late”, the emperor was
73
Analysed in great detail in Susan Naquin, Millenarian Rebellion in China. For a brief account see de
Groot, Sectarianism and Persecution, p. 409 ff.
74 A view held by de Groot, Sectarianism and Religious Persecution, p. 443, passim. See also R. H. C.
Shek, “Religion and Society”, pp. 276-287, who is less outspoken in this regard. The characters used
for the Hongyang name can vary. The most common character combinations are
 and the alias of Hunyuanmen(“School of Primeval
Chaos”). Shek describes the Baiyang (“White Yang”, alias , “White Ocean”) as a
“perfect amalgam of the Hong-yang, Huang-tian, and Yuan-dun sects.” (ibidem, p. 305). “White Yang”
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warned in 1814, “Christianity is again promulgated and professed here. ... those who
tolerate such people must be punished, in order that the evil influence of heresy shall
be annulled, and the loyal thus be made to live in peace.”75
Despite all attempts to blot out Christian proselytisation, Chinese and even a
handful of European missionaries made active use of the growing popular dissent in
the provinces. Shanxi Province, the old Franciscan missionary field, had largely
escaped the repercussions of the 1805 persecution.76 During the latter Qianlong and
early Jiaqing years, the province had been administered by the bishop of Beijing,
Alexandre de Gouvea (TOR), though most of the ecclesiastic footwork was being
carried out autonomously.77 Christianity in the province prospered even further when
the Franciscan cleric Antonio Luigi Landi (alias da Signa, 1749-1811, the Franciscan
Vicar Apostolic and Titular Bishop of Antheon) assumed the title of bishop over
Shanxi in 1804, and showed few signs of intimidation when the newly appointed
bishop died only two years later. This relative lack of friction was indeed rather recent.
During the final quarter of the eighteenth century, the Christian communities within
the province had been the focus of intramissionary contention. The reason for this was
to be found in the imposition of strict clerical discipline by the bishop of Shanxi and
Vicar Apostolic for the provinces of Shanxi and Shaanxi, Mariano Zaralli (OFM) and,
upon his death in 1790, by his successor Giambattista Cortenova (alias Giambattista
di Mandello). At least in part intended to weed out tendencies towards the
is of course also the name of the third, kalpa of the Buddha of the Future (Maitreya). See Naquin,
Shantung Rebellion, p. 56.
75 Quoted in de Groot, Sectarianism and Religious Persecution, pp. 470-471. For text and translation
of the memorial, see Appendix 5.
76 The Shanxi and Shaanxi missions had, however, been founded by the Jesuits Etienne Le Fèvre,
Alfonso Vagnoni and Michel Trigault during the 1640s and 50s (Le Fèvre died in a little village in
Shanxi in May 1659). See F. Margiotti, Il cattolicismo nello Shansi, p. 94 ff. and 121 ff.
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reintroduction of the banned ancestral rites, and of other elements with roots in
Chinese tradition, the measures provoked an indignant reaction from both clergy and
the grassroots.78 The dispute swiftly took on such proportions that the bishop of
Beijing, Alexandre Gouvea, saw himself forced to intervene. He took sides with the
Chinese Christians, and implored the Vatican to send an apostolic visitor to calm the
volatile situation. As so often, the irony of history was to be found in a practical detail:
The letter sent to the Propaganda took almost four years to arrive - by which time the
quarrel over clerical discipline had already been settled for more than one year. The
Roman cardinals, however, were unaware of these developments and had already
decided that a full investigation was to be carried out, and thus instructed the bishop
of Beijing that all missionaries were to undergo an official visitation. The man
selected for this important function was Don Emmanuele Conforti (1787-1837), a
missionary of the (now defunct) Missionary Society of St. John the Baptist.79 Having
aggravated the already tense situation by antagonising Luigi Landi and the Chinese
clergy in general, Conforti continued with his project by visiting all congregations
which had a reputation for internal discord. Never far from danger and death, Conforti
finally concluded his visitation by signing the final version of his report in September
1798. For details on the local conditions he had relied heavily on the knowledge of his
secretary Camillus Chao. During the following fourteen years, Conforti rejoined his
missionary homebase, the Propaganda parish in the west of Beijing, where he stayed
77
The mountainous topography of much of the province favoured the local self-administration of the
province, while protecting its Christian communities from prosecuting officials. For a brief
introduction, see B. Willeke, “The Report of the Apostolic Visitation”, pp. 198-205.
78 A protest letter sent by the Chinese priest Stephen Bao to the Propaganda can be inspected at the
APF as document SO, “Indie Orientali e Cina” (1793-1795), ff. 247-249 [n.b. I owe this information to
Professor B. Willeke, without having verified the contents of the source].
79 These details can be found in B. Willeke, “The Report of the Apostolic Visitation”, pp. 197-199.
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until the last foreign missionaries were evicted from the Xitang in 1811.80 With the
original intention of demonstrating that the double province was under resolute
missionary control, the report on the contrary indicates a significant degree of
“unauthorised” expressions of Christian religiosity, as well as social interaction with
the pagan majority.
Even more independent from missionary supervision were the Christian
communities in Sichuan province,81 which multiplied during the century of repression.
Under the clerical administration of Bishop Dufresse (alias Xu Dexin ), the
province was divided into two vicariates apostolic of more than four hundred
thousand Christians, administered by sixteen Chinese and two European priests.
Christians could in general carry out their nuptial and funerary ceremonies without
interference from district officials, and yamen runners, low-ranking bureaucrats and
the general population welcomed the growing communities with curiosity rather than
suspicion - a fact mirrored both in the contemporary missionary correspondence as
well as in memorials to the central administration in Beijing. The relative safety of the
Christian community in the province, gave confidence both to the Chinese Christians
and the foreign missionaries. This situation formed the backdrop to the Synod of
Sichuan of 1803, where the foundations for a new missionary movement, more closely
oriented along the interpretations and practices of the Chinese population, were
established.82
80
The Xitang had also been the clerical home of Adeodato, whom Conforti knew very well. Conforti
died at Pulo-Pinang, the modern Malaysian Penang, after another quarter century of missionary work in
1837. The MEP maintained a seminary on the island, the first of settlement established by the East India
Company, where Conforti worked until his death. Cf. B. Willeke, “The Report of the Apostolic
Visitation”, pp. 198-204.
81 Which during the Jiaqing period also included Guizhou and Yunnan. Cf. Zhang Ze, Qingdai jinjiaoqi
de tianzhujiao, pp. 172-176.
82 The important synod, and the growth of Christianity in this province have been analysed by Robert
Entenmann in “The Establishment of Chinese Catholic Communities”, pp. 147-161. As most of the
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The persecution caused by the discovery of Adeodato’s map was the beginning
of the attempted violent suppression of Christianity during the three decades
preceding the end of the Canton trade system, and coincided with the gradual
reimmersion of foreign missionaries into the Qing empire. The administration
appointed three high-ranking officials whose sole task it was to supervise the activities
of the remaining missionaries. The explanation for this escalation of anti-missionary
activity was terse - “because of the fact that the Christian religion of the Europeans
goes against the traditions, and corrupts the hearts”.83 The events of 1805 were
exacerbated by the fact that three years later Alexandre de Gouvea, tolerant and
popular bishop of Beijing’s Christians, passed away. Less than two years earlier,
Gouvea had given in to the requests by concerned Christian leaders and cardinal
figures of the Catholic hierarchy in Rome to leave his diocese in order to look after his
health.84 Gouvea’s main intention, however, was to travel to Macau in order to train
missionaries in a school for Chinese novices, who would then move to Beijing in
order to set up a seminary, “under [Gouvea’s] direction”.85 The newly recruited
missionaries would then have been in the position to supplement the four Chinese
foreign priests were of French origin, the bulk of the relevant missionary correspondence is located in
the archives of the Missions Etrangères de Paris. Of the Chinese archives, the one situated in Ba-xian
(Chongqing, Sichuan) harbours the most fertile collections. See also Léonide Guiot, La Mission du Sutchuen au XVIIIme siècle, pp. 425-426.
83 ... porque la Religion Christiana de los Europeos perjudica mucho a los costumbres, y corrompe los
corazones. See the letter by C. J. Létondal to Pedro Gravina, titular archbishop of Nicea and Nuncio in
Madrid, Macau 19 January 1806, APF SC, series III, Cina and Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, folium 30
V. The officials are named as Lon-kam, Cham-lim and Gin-xo, and have yet to be identified.
84 Culminating in the recommendation by Pope Pius VII of 1804. Cf. letter of 5 November 1806 by
Alexander Gouvea to the Vatican, APF SC, series III, Cina and Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, folium
179.
85 Interestingly, one of the first attempts to set up a college for Chinese novices in the vicinity of the
Qing shores - on Polopinang island, claimed by the East India Company and other English trade
companies, as suggested by Giovanni-Battista Martini - foundered because of opposition from the
Propaganda. The Sacra Congregatio objected that the English traders would draw too many material
benefits from the purchase of the land, and because, after all, the English were to be regarded as eretici,
who thus posed a danger to doctrinal purity in the seminary. The Philippines, as Spanish crown land,
hence provided a better location for the school. Cf. the report entitled “Observations on the
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priests already active in the congregations of the capital.86 His successor, Joaquim de
Souza-Saraiva (CM), was unable to leave Macau for the capital, which meant that for
the following ten years up to his death in January 1818, the congregations in Beijing
were left without direct spiritual guidance. In July 1811 issued the sternest warning yet
to all remaining missionaries still employed by the imperial administration.87 In the
 as
same year, the Christian centre around the Western Church (Xitang w
suppressed. The following year saw the demolition of the Eastern Church (Dongtang
).88 This policy affected all buildings used for church activities, in particular
the oratories set aside for Christian women, but also houses owned or rented by the
missionaries for storing printing presses, books and other equipment.89 The
persecution against the Christian congregations in Beijing had been ignited by an edict
in seven articles, issued by the Jiaqing emperor in 1811.90 The edict placed the
logistics of the operation into the hands of specifically appointed officials, who were
given the task of invigilating the homes of the Europeans in the capital (Article 1).
Construction of a Chinese College in the Philippines” (Osservazioni sull’erezione d’un collegio di
Sinesi nelle Isole Philippine), APF SC, series III, Cina and Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, ff. 190-191.
86 Pro nunc iam incoepi facere quod possum, id est, vocare missionarios, et jovenes illius provinciae,
ut tam Macai, quam hic Pekini sub mea directione in seminario instruantur. APF SC, series III, Cina e
Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, folium 179 R (and 180).
87 The edict, dated JQ 16/7 (August/September 1811) is reprinted in Wang Zhichun, Qingchao rouyuan
ji, pp. 163-164. The edict states that following an earlier expulsion, a mere seven missionaries remained
in the capital. All were described as being “old and unable to be repatriated”
(). The names of these last remaining court missionaries are
given as Qian Deming (Jean Joseph Marie Amiot), Li Gongchen (Joseph Nunez
Ribeira), Gao Shoulian (Verissimo Serra Monteiro), He Mide (Mathurin de
Lamathe [?]), He Qingtai (Louis de Poirot), Ji Deming (Jean-Joseph
Ghislain)and Bi Xueyuan (Gaetano Pires Pireiro). For details affecting the activity of
foreign missionaries during the final decades of the missionary prohibition, see Bernward H. Willeke,
Imperial Government and Catholic Missions in China during the years 1784-1789, St Bonaventure /
New York: Franciscan Institute 1948, pp. 153-165.
88 See Zhang Ze, Qingdai jinjiaoqi de tianzhujiao, p. 183.
89 Already in May 1805 (JQ10/4), an edict prohibiting the printing and distribution of books (kanke
shuji ) by Westerners (xiyangren ) in the capital itself - a consequence of the
Adeodato affair. The same edict also made any religious congregations between foreigners and
inhabitants of the provinces (neidiren ) illegal. See Wang Zhichun, Qingchao rouyuan ji, p.
149.
90 The edict can be found translated in the APF document SOCP, Indie Orientali, 1817, ff. 31-32.
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Each church was to be guarded by sentries, each composed of one captain and five
soldiers. Army barracks were to be erected in the vicinity of each church, with
maximum discipline for the troops (Article 2). Article 3 stipulated what amounted to a
reversal of imperial policy towards missionary activity in the capital, thus exceeding
the restrictions imposed by the Yongzheng edict: “The Europeans”, we are reminded,
“arrived in Beijing in order to serve the emperor.” The churches had thus been
adorned with the inscription Iglesia del Señor del Cielo, construida con el permiso del
Emperador. This could lead simple-minded subjects to the erroneous assumption that
the Teachings of the Lord of Heaven was not a proscribed sect at all. For this reason,
the Board of Public Buildings (Tribunal de los Edificios) has been ordered to erase all
inscriptions and similar signs and symbols from the four churches, in order to prevent
further misunderstandings. The following articles proscribed visits by Europeans to
the homes of Chinese subjects, and with utter vehemence to members of the
Mongolian and Manchurian Banners (tartares). The remaining missionaries at the
Board of Mathematics now had to notify the commanders of the sentries, who would
then accompany them to their place of work. Failure to act accordingly would entail
the immediate withdrawal of the permit to work for the imperial government. This de
facto house arrest also extended to intended visits to the four churches. All other
ecclesiastic buildings - in particular the female oratories - were to be closed down with
immediate effect, while offering financial compensation to the affected Europeans. All
correspondence to be sent back to Europe, finally, had to be translated into Chinese by
members of the Russian ecclesiastical mission and delivered to Qing officials. Under
the auspices of the Board of War (Tribunal de Milicia), the letters were then to be
transported to the offices belonging to the provincial governor-general for the
Cantonese double-province in Guangzhou, who would then pass them on to traders en
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route to Europe. The same degree of scrutiny applied to letters sent to the missionaries
in Beijing. Otherwise, the edict ends, all other contacts - including those with
missionaries in Macau - remained strictly forbidden.91 The implications of the edict of
1811 for Chinese Christianity were momentous. The event firstly intensified
allegations of connections between the Christian religion and the increasing incursions
by foreigners from the West. It thus aggravated the pressure on the indigenous
Christians, which had been mounting since the Adeodato affair of 1805. The
Christians of the Chinese capital did not escape the effects of the persecution on this
occasion. Far from being able to offer protection against official investigations, the
presence of foreigners now added to the problems of the capital’s community. As an
interesting by-product of the persecution, the Christian villages of the surrounding
area, in Zhili, were rejuvenated through the influx of refugees from the capital.
One year later, after the death in November 1813 of Louis Antoine de Poirot,
the last survivor among the former Jesuits, and the demolition of the Northern Church
 in 1827, it seemed that the century of state action against Christianity had
finally yielded the results which the Yongzheng emperor had sought with his first
edict in 1724.92 As if to emphasise this intention, the Jiaqing officials opened criminal
procedures against four Manchurian Bannermen, including two descendants of the
Sunu clan, who had been punished for their Christian beliefs during the ascent of the
Yongzheng emperor. In the summer of 1805, Tuqin , Tumin , Kuimin
 and Woshibu were accused of “secretly adhering to Christianity”,
an offence with particularly grave consequences for Manchurian Bannermen. The
91
ibidem, folium 32 R/V.
Information provided by Edward Malatesta in chapter two (pp. 8-21) of his unpublished conference
paper “China and the Society of Jesus: An Historical-Theological Essay”, read at the Symposium on the
History of Christianity in China, Hong Kong 2-4 October 1996.
92
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imperial decree issued against the four religious offenders emphasises the link
between loyalty to the throne and the religious identity of the Banner soldiers in all
clarity:
The Board of Punishment reports to Us the discovery that Khwei-min, Woshih-pu, T’u-khin and T’u-min secretly profess the European religion. Over
and over again, the road to conversion has been opened to them, but those
convicts all the more steadfastly refuse to renounce their religion. The Board
therefore proposes that they shall be exiled to Ili, and there be charged with
prejudicial and crushing functions, etc. T’u-khin and T’u-min are greatgrandsons of Su-nu, who in the Yung ching period for some crime was thrust
out of the imperial family, and degraded to the rank of Red Girdle nobleman.
As descendants of a culprit, they ought to have performed their duties and
observed the laws; but they presumed secretly to profess the European
religion, and though the said Board repeatedly offered to them an opportunity
of conversion, they rejected its arguments, and from first to last clung to their
errors, without repenting. This is a very heinous offence. They shall be
divested of their dignity of Red Girdle noblemen; their names shall be erased
from the Imperial family-register, and they shall be sent to Ili, where they are
to wear the cangue for six months, and thereafter shall be employed for
prejudicial and crushing work. Khwei-min and Wo-shih-pu likewise
steadfastly declared themselves unwilling to forsake their religion, and
willing to suffer punishment for it; they shall therefore be expelled from their
Banner regiment and exiled to Ili, there to be exhibited for three months with
a cangue around their necks, and then to be employed for prejudicial and
crushing work. T’u-khin and the three other convicts ... have turned their
backs upon Us and committed rebellion; therefore they shall never be set at
liberty or return. The military Governor of those regions shall at all times
inquire after them, and keep them under strict control and rule; and if they
should run away from their place of exile, or in any other way cause trouble,
he must respectfully request Our orders to put them to death.93
Cautious not to allow any hint of heresy to subvert the defence of the empire,
the Qing rulers acted with almost equal vehemence against Christians within the Han
Banners. Punishment was harsh, always resulting in demotion (gezhi ) and
interrogation under torture, and - if found guilty - deportation to the barbarian tribes of
the empire’s north-west. In a verdict of the year 1814 by the veteran official Dong Gao
, the report of the discovery of Christian Banner officers is accompanied by the
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recommendation to despatch these Christians for enslavement to the Eleuths (Ölöds)
in Yili, after excising their names from the Banner registers, due to “the stubborn
persistence in their religious belief and their inability to repent”.94
The easiest method, in their quest to control the countryside, was thus to
apprehend all foreign missionaries, intent on spreading the seeds of their religious
beliefs. These were at the same time a highly visible target, due to their European
features. Their Chinese brothers in faith, however, often fared little better. Christian
worship had been effectively evicted from the public sphere, with most communities
relying on the solidarity of their house communities. Strangers could thus be spotted
with relative ease, and would then be reported to the Yamen officials in the district
capital. Paul Wang (Paolo Vang), a former pupil of the missionary college in Naples,
thus found his efforts to build up a seminary thwarted by the sudden increase in antiChristian activity. In 1815 he was caught, condemned to death for charges of heresy,
and finally garrotted in February 1816.95
In the aftermath of the events of 1811, the state intensified its offensive against
popular unrest. State officials focused their attention on the homes of known
sectarians, including Christians, in the hope of being able to obtain incriminating
evidence. Official reports indicate that state prosecutors were taken by surprise when
searches of Christian villages did not produce any weapons, armed mercenaries or
93
De Groot, Sectarianism and Religious Persecution pp. 395-6, cites the edict of 12 August 1800 (see
Shengxun no. 99). The relevant passage is cited in Appendix 4. The edict is also referred to in Zhang
Ze, Qingdai jinjiaoqi de tianzhujiao, pp. 154-155.
94

. See FHA, scroll 9260, original document 498, sub-number 38, frame 757. The memorial is
dated JQ 10/5/19, i.e. 16 June 1805.
95 Cf. the APF source SOCP, Indie Orientali, 1817, ff. 9V-10R. This document is a report compiled by
Propaganda officials, summarising the state of the China mission during the first two decades of the
nineteenth century. It focuses on the persecutions of 1805 and 1811, and states that no letters had been
received from Beijing since 1814, while reports from the capital were being relayed via the illegal
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materials calling for the overthrow of the ruling dynasty.96 “Out of rage”, libraries and
homes would be ransacked, objects burnt and Christians of all ages arrested. Chinese
priests and head of local congregations would at least be exiled, while foreign
missionaries were confronted with the alternative between exile and execution.97
Increasingly aware of the interaction between the, still legal, missionary presence in
Beijing and the Christian communities in the provinces, the imperial officials did their
best to sever the links to the capital. Soldiers posted at the city gates, and along the
chief highways of the entire Qing empire, were instructed to search for Christian
symbols, in order to curtail the flow of books and missionaries into Zhili and
beyond.98
The imperial edict of 1811 had been intended for the whole of the empire,
though its immediate impact was most acutely felt in the imperial capital Beijing.
Despite the grave warnings by the imperial administration, the persecution was not
carried out with equal ardour in all provinces. Reports sent to the missionaries of the
Propaganda Fide99 suggest that they had but a very limited effect on the areas outside
Beijing. Within the imperial capital mainly members of the Manchurian elite and
military (tartari) were targeted: Banner troops had to abjure from Christianity under
the constant threat of decapitation or at least of deportation to the Far West of the
Qing empire (Yili). The imperial government made a public statement out of the
soldiers’ apostasies by forcing the men with the cangue around their necks to march to
provincial missions. It should be kept in mind that the average duration for the delivery of a letter
between Europe and China was two years, and often exceeded this period.
96 Ibidem, ff. 11-12.
97 Referring to Gabrielle Dufresse, in particular. Ibidem, f. 11 R.
98 Ibidem, f. 12 R.
99 Cf. APF SC, series III, Cina e Regni Adiacenti (1806-1811), folium 401R - a letter by Emmanuele
Conforti, who suspected that a secret order had been issued by the emperor, who may have feared a
backlash by the populous Christian communities ( ... qualque revoluzione per il gran numero di
cristiani).
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the city gates in order to publicly defile the crucifix. A memorial submitted in January
1815 (JQ 19/12) by the officials Tang Zun and Ke Hen referred to the involvement of
Christian groups in “subversive activities” during the intercalary month of the
preceding year in Hua County, Henan. Hua county had already gained notoriety during
the Eight Trigrams rebellion of 1813, and was hence viewed with particular
caution.100 The state’s offensive against millenarian uprisings coincided with a spate
of local persecutions in the Christian heartland surrounding Nanyang, in southwestern Henan, as well as in the north of the Huguang region. Well documented are
also the persecutions in Sichuan, which claimed the lives of many Christians,
including that of Louis Gabriel Dufresse (Xu Dexin ), executed in 1815 for
illegal missionary activities.101 An imperial edict issued in the same year expresses the
surprise, if not disgust, at the defiance of the Sichuanese Christians, who would rather
accept death than turn their backs on the foreign teachings. Commenting on the
allegations against the pastors Zhao Siding (alias Zhu Rong ) and
Tong Ao and the fact that hundreds of other Christians had defied all threats of
death and deportation, the edict stated that “they spread their morally confounding
ideas to simple village folk, ... and, in order to ascend to Heaven, showed no fear of
death. Truly, how repulsive!”102 Another edict, in the pen of the circuit inspector for
Hubei province Qishan , gives evidence of the relentless effort to deal with
100
The memorial begins with the words: “The imperial edict to be circulated in every province [is
aimed] at all Christians and everybody connected to them. Last year during the intercalary month, an
incident occurred in Hua County, Henan Province which sounds like the wildest rumours, making the
hair
of
the
Reader
stand
up
on
end.”
(
). See FHA, scroll 9261, document number 503, sub-number 48.
101 The Nanyang community, in south-west Henan, was one of the most thriving centres of Christianity
in Central China, and had become a refuge for Christians from the surrounding provinces. A later
persecution claimed the life of the French Vincentian Francis-Régis Clet, strangled at Wuchang in
February 1820. On both, see Huc, Souvenirs of a Journey, vol. I, p. 37.
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reported cases of “propagating heresy and congregating disciples” (xi-chuan xiejiao,
zhuanchuan tuzhong ). The memorial focuses on Liu
Fangji, and the group of fellow Christians around him. Qishan was dismissive of any
mitigating circumstances - such as the filial devotion to his ancestors’ practices - and
referred to the Christians mentioned in the report throughout as “criminals” (fan
).103 A letter from the year 1815 is even more scathing in its tone of condemnation.
The official Guang Baoqin refers to the fugitive elder Zhang Dapeng  and
his band of fifty disciples as “treacherous, criminal aliens, intent on causing chaos”
(wailai jianfei, xitu hunji ). The punishment for “sowing
confusion among the ignorant masses” (shanhuo minyu ) could be
nothing but harsh.104
While China’s Christians were suffering from the consequences of the latest
persecutions, the European missionaries began to reflect on the factors contributing to
missionary failure. The entire world mission was rife with rivalry, amongst the
different orders themselves and between the Vatican and Europe’s monarchs, on
subjects ranging from theological doctrine to financial matters.105 The report by
Emmanuele Conforti provides a detailed picture of the China mission at the beginning
of the nineteenth century - including the fissures created by the perennial tension
between the individual orders. Conforti also addressed the issue surrounding the
102
.This edict of JQ 25/3/20,
i.e. 2 May 1820 is reprinted in Zhang Ze, Qingdai jinjiaoqi de tianzhujiao, pp. 198-199.
103 The memorial by Qishan dates from JQ 24/7/12, i.e. 1/9/1819. It can be consulted at the
FHA, scroll 8875, original document 2750, sub-number 8, frames 1953 - 1954. An impression of
Qishan as a weathered official-in-exile in Tibet we obtain in E. Huc, Souvenirs of a Journey, volume II,
p. 259 ff. Visibly more tolerant towards Huc and Gabet as Christian foreigners, the eminent official
vents his indignation against their travel companion, a Mongolian from Gansu province. See ibidem,
volume I, p. 263.
104 Cf. the memorial by Guang Bao , JQ 20/92/19, i.e. 29/3/1815, FHA, scroll 8876, original
document 2763, sub-number 19, frame 2205.
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Christian community of Zhaojiazhuang  in Zhili province, one of the most
notorious examples of missionary discord of the entire eighteenth century. The first
half of the century was dominated by parochial infighting between priests representing
the Iberian crowns and the Propaganda, respectively. This period came to an end
when, on 26 September 1747, the three competitors for supremacy in the town agreed
that Zhaojiazhuang was to be exclusively administered by the Jesuits, while leaving
the Iberian Franciscan missionaries the right of sojourn in times of persecution. The
latter would otherwise concentrate their missionary activities on the surrounding
districts. The complex arrangement produced constant misinterpretations, in particular
after the Jesuit order had been disbanded, which necessitated a detailed map showing
the precise delineations of the missionary regions in Shandong - the very map which
happened to be discovered in the luggage of the missionary Adeodato.106 After the
ominous incident, when the Chinese Christians of the municipality were interrogated,
the question of missionary affiliation was raised by the Qing officials. When
questioned as to why a certain priest had never set foot in the church erected by the
Portuguese, he responded that he had been baptised by missionaries belonging to the
Propaganda Fide and that he had always received his sacraments from this group.
After attempts to convince the local Christians to attend the Portuguese church failed
to lead to concrete results, the bishop attempted to coerce leading Christians to attend
services in churches other than that of the Propaganda, which set the chain of events
105 Boxer devotes a whole chapter on the strife between the Franciscan and Jesuit missionaries in
Japan. See C. R. Boxer, The Christian Century in Japan, pp. 137-187.
106 This was spelt out in the missive by Giovanni Antonio de Pompejana, dated Henceu 29 October
1806. Cf. APF SC, series III, Cina e Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811,, folium 176 V. He referred to the
province as “always divided ..., full of dissent, discord and preoccupations disregarding the spiritual
needs of the poor Christians” (... questa Provincia divisa ... sempre piena di dissenzioni, discordie e
pretensioni sciocche, con non poccho pregiudizio spirituale de poveri christiani....).
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into motion which would result in the policy of repression starting in 1805.107 Another
letter, despatched from Macau to the Bishop of Beijing in the year 1806, stated the
reasons with clarity and in despair - the lack of a coordinated missionary policy and a
general lack of unity between the messengers of the Gospel to the Chinese:
Oh povera Missione di Pekino! Chi fù la causa della tua perdizione? Gli
Europei. E perchè? Per mancanza di carità e d’unione.108
In brief, the late Jiaqing period can be regarded as a uniquely hostile episode in
the development of relations between the imperial state and China’s Christian
communities. The growing pressure on Christian groups coincided with a campaign to
put an end to the White Lotus uprisings of the last few years of the eighteenth century,
and culminated around the Eight Trigrams uprising of 1813, which put the state on the
defensive against all other non-orthodox religious movements. Philosophising in the
aftermath of the White Lotus rebellion, the Jiaqing emperor concluded that force had
been necessary in order to pacify society. Force without education, however, appeared
to have little permanent effect. For this reason, the emperor concluded that the level of
“orthodoxy” amongst the common people had to be raised and that “heretical”
107
This letter was sent to the Propaganda by Emmanuele Conforti and is kept at the APF as file SC,
series III, Cina e Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, folium 401 R. See also the APF document SC, series III,
Cina e Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, ff. 223-226, containing a protest note by the ex-Jesuits of Beijing
against the imminent acquisition of the Jesuit fund by the Lazarists deposited with the English in
Madras. The letter was sent from Pondicherry, southern India, on 21 May 1804.
108 “O poor mission of Beijing! What was the reason for your downfall? The Europeans. And why?
Because of a lack of charity and unity”. Letter by Joseph Nunez Ribeira to Beijing, 1806, filed at the
APF as SC, Indie Orientali/Cina, 1806-1811, ff. 16-17. There is, however, also clear evidence for a
gradual rapprochement between the various orders. Emmanuele Conforti (in APF SC, series III, Cina e
Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, folium 402 R) stated that the shock waves of the - implicitly anti-clerical revolution in France convinced many to overcome the trenches of sectarian division, both in Europe and
in the China mission. See also B. Mensaert, “Les Franciscains au service de la Propagande dans la
Province de Pékin 1705-1785”, in: Archivum Franciscanum Historicum LI (1958), pp. 161-200 and
273-311.
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movements, whether of Christian or Buddhist provenance, be monitored.109 The
official policy to contain Christianity was, however, never homogeneously applied
over the whole of the empire, and was preoccupied with eradicating the presence of
foreign missionaries within the imperial frontiers. Consequently, China’s Christians
enjoyed proportionally greater security the more their link with the outside world was
severed. This tendency had reached its symbolic climax with the closure of the last
remaining missionary residence in the capital during the final year of the Jiaqing
period (year twenty-five, i.e. 1820), and the destruction of the Northern Cathedral in
1826. Certainly not a reason for the European missionaries to celebrate, the late
Jiaqing years were seen by some as the most pitiful state the mission could possibly be
in. The events did indeed mark the absolute end of the first foreign missionary
presence in Beijing, but the removal of easily recognisable outsiders also rendered
China’s Christians a less visible target of the state’s zeal to expunge heresy. With this
in mind, we will now approach the development of indigenous Christianity during the
last two decades prior to the reimmersion of Western missionaries.
5. Relaxation of anti-Christian state action during the Daoguang period
When the Daoguang  emperor (1821-1851) succeeded to the throne, he
followed the prohibitive policies of his predecessors in principle, yet proved more
tolerant in practice. Instead of centrally ordained persecutions, the new emperor
stressed that as long as they were of no harm to the surrounding populace and
followed the laws of the dynasty, Christians were free to continue with their religious
109 Cf. de Groot, Sectarianism and Religious Persecution, pp. 378-832, commenting on the Xiejiao
shuo “ Discourse on Heretical Religions”).
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traditions.110 This newly formulated tolerance did not, of course, extend to foreign
missionaries, who were still subject to the edicts barring them from entering the
empire. Of the court missionaries, only a handful had survived the severity of the
Qianlong and Jiaqing years.111 By the sixth year of the Daoguang period, all foreigners
bar Pereira had either left the capital or died. For the Christian localities which had
previously depended on the court missionaries and their Chinese fellow Christians, the
demise of a foreign presence in the capital translated into even less protection from the
anti-heretical instincts of district magistrates, whose punitive action was not only
sanctioned by the legal canon of the dynasty, but was indeed fully supported by a
significant proportion of imperial ministers.112 A case in point was the trial against the
Chinese priest Liu Ruiting  of Quxian , a district in the eastern half
of Sichuan, who stood accused of taking his religion into the homes of ordinary
villagers in the north of the empire.113 The legal action had been launched by an
official, who had in turn been tipped off by a Christian involved in a dispute with a
Christian fellow-villager, and subsequently with P. Liu after he had taken sides against
the former. The intrigue triggered a formal investigation into the state of Christianity
in Tianjin, Zhili Province, the region encompassing the Christian stronghold of
Zhaojiawan , where the dispute had taken place. The chief person held
responsible for spreading the “heresy” - and one of the twenty-seven recognised
Chinese priests in the empire - Liu Ruiting, was executed by yamen officials through
strangulation, the standard punishment for leaders of heretical movements. The
severity of punishment, combined with the economic hardship encountered by the
110
See Zhang Ze, Qingdai jinjiaoqi de tianzhujiao, p. 209.
See Huc, Souvenirs of a Journey, volume I, p. 38.
112 Cf. D. Bodde, Law in Imperial China, introduction.
113 Cf. APF SOCP, Indie Orientali, 1817, ff. 15 - 16.
111
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Christians in the north-western provinces, acted as a strong deterrent to
proselytisation. A letter sent to the Propaganda offices in November 1811 illustrates
the problem missionaries - Chinese and Europeans - faced in Shanxi and Shaanxi.
Chinese missionaries, educated at the Chinese Institute in Naples, had prepared
themselves for the China mission, but proved themselves reluctant to enter such a
hostile environment. We learn that for this reason a seminary in Shanxi province had
to be closed.114 One of these Chinese missionaries was a graduate of the college in
Naples, (Jacob) Li Zibiao (1755-1828), a native of Gansu province. Having re-entered
China as an interpreter on the Macartney mission in 1793, Li Zibiao adopted the
European name of Jacob May and continued to work with great success for the Shanxi
mission. Li Zibiao was generally regarded as a very “reliable” priest, judged capable
by Western missionaries of reaching higher offices than in actual fact available to
Chinese natives at the time.115 While not doubting his qualities as a teacher of the
Christian faith, a cautious examination of his “reliability” was deemed appropriate.
Owing to his doctrinal background, as a product of the college for Chinese Christians
in Naples, Li Zibiao seems to have been regarded as sufficiently cured from the
“superstitions” of his native lands. The source is indicative of Western reluctance to
accept the growth of a native clergy. Citing “objective” reasons for the retention of
European priests, such as knowledge of Latin, Europe’s Catholic missions legitimised
their control of clerical life in the Chinese mission field.116
114
Cf. APF SOCP, Indie Orientali, 1817, folium 15 V.
Cf. B. Willeke, “The Report of the Apostolic Visitation”, p. 214.
116 This patronising attitude of European missionaries was already criticised by the “troublemaker”
Philip Huang, who highlighted discrimination against Chinese-born missionaries trained in Naples,
ranging from underpayment to verbal abuse, in his letters to Rome. See Giacomo di Fiore, Lettere di
Missionari dalla Cina, p. 109. In the meantime, Chinese missionaries were becoming active: The
untiring Maurus Li managed to keep the Sichuan mission alive during the outgoing eighteenth century,
whereas one generation later the Protestant convert Liang Fa  (1789-1855) successfully
proselytised in his native Guangdong. Liang Fa and his “Good Words to Admonish the Age” (Quanshi
115
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One interesting side-effect of the policy of banishing Christians to Yili was the
development of a large Christian community in the city, complete with four churches
and four seminaries, clerics from Sichuan and Shaanxi to administer the former, and
the freedom to congregate for mass. During the uprisings of the early 1820s in the
northwest of the Qing empire, the local Christian population assisted the Qing
magistrate in repelling the Muslim rebels.117 In recognition of this fact, the Daoguang
emperor declared a general amnesty for the banished Christians. These punishments
were however still meted out against Christian communities in Guizhou, where,
protected by its remoteness and aided by missionaries from neighbouring Sichuan,
Christianity had been able to develop relatively unhindered throughout the eighteenth
century. In two separate movements, during the years 1822 and 1835, state officials
concentrated on identifying Christian village leaders, and on punishing the most
notorious perpetrators of heretical missionary activity. Capital punishment and
banishment apart, the yamen gaolers resorted to the bamboo cane and to carving and
branding equipment, which also served to identify troublemakers once the trial was
over. In the case of the Christian Liu Wenyuan of Zhouxian in
Guizhou Province, the words “Christian Heresy” (Tianzhu xiejiao ) had
been incised into his face during the earlier persecution of 1822. When thirteen years
later, during another period of repression, the same Christian intended to protect his
children from the officials, a yamen clerk recognised him as a Christian due to his
facial scars. Apart from arresting the whole family, the clerk furthermore added insult
liangyan ) are introduced in P. Richard Bohr, “Liang Fa’s Quest for Moral Power”, in:
Barnett and Fairbank, Christianity in China, pp. 35-46 as well as in George Hunter McNeur, Leung
Faat (Leang Afa): The First Chinese Protestant Evangelist, Guangzhou: Church of Christ in China
1930.
117 See D. C. K. Boulger, The Life of Yakoob Beg, London: W. H. Allen 1878, pp. 236-257 for a
detailed account of the uprising (though not confirming any cooperation between the two religious
communities). See also p. 291, footnote 18 of this thesis.
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to (physical) injury by having “Leading Children Astray” (kuangpian youtong
)and “Confusing the People through Criminal Beliefs” (zuodao
huozhong) incised on Liu Wenyuan’s right and left cheek,
respectively.118
Whereas the capital city became increasingly perilous to its Christian
population, the Christian communities of Xiwanzi , beyond the Great Wall
to the north-west of the capital (Inner Mongolia), the Black Water Valley
(Heishuichuan, Hara-Wussu in Mongolian, the Lazarist mission being
situated in the village of Gulitu )119 and of Anjiazhuangin Ansu
District , Zhili Province, not only constituted safe havens but also became
the gestation ground for the coming phase of missionary expansion during the
nineteenth century.120 These centres of Christian activity outside the city walls of
Beijing became veritable oases for believers who, in the capital, had been deprived of
the opportunity to live according to the teachings of their community. Following the
excesses of the persecution of 1805, the bishop of Beijing, Alexandre Gouvea,
exempted the members of the remaining congregations from the task of attending
mass regularly - with the exception of Christmas, Easter, Pentecost and Assumption,
118
Cited in Zhang Ze, Qingdai jinjiaoqi de tianzhujiao, pp. 210-211. The case is mentioned in the
Daqing xuanzong cheng huangdi shilu  (“Veritable records of the
Daoguang emperor”), for the year DG 14 (1834).
119 See Huc, Souvenirs of a Journey, volume I, pp. 43-44 for further details; ibidem, Appendix J
explains the origins of the Lazarist mission of Makiatze in the Mongolian Birin-Gol (Bieliegou
, i.e. “Contiguous Straits”) valley.
120 Huc, Souvenirs of a Journey, volume I, pp. 34-37 and 43-44. An enlightening reference to a nonChristian religious village community in the Dongan  district, between Tianjin and Beijing, is
made by de Groot. This non-Christian village of Lixin “numbered over one hundred families,
who worked with cymbals and drums, exorcisms, and written or painted charms; they held meetings
attended by both sexes collected moneys, and had heads and leaders in possession of heretical writings
and prints, swords, spears and other such dangerous things.” See de Groot, Sectarianism and Religious
Persecution, p. 495. The similarities in the terminology emphasise to what extent Christianity had by
now become part of popular religious life.
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the cardinal church holidays.121 For the Christians in the capital, the situation was
finally becoming more akin to that of their fellow Christians in the provinces: A
dwindling number of foreign missionaries who were in the position to “rectify”
practices deemed incompatible with Christian orthodoxy. The more time went by, the
weaker the position of the missionaries became. The only remaining European in the
capital, Bishop Pires Pereira, was isolated and powerless, in particular after the
destruction of the Northern Cathedral (1827) and the flight of his chief pillar among
Beijing’s native Christians, the Lazarist Pater Xue Madou (Matthew Xue,
alias Sui Madou ), into the rough terrain around Xiwanzi.122 Pires Pereira’s
death in 1838 deprived the Board of Mathematics of the last foreign official, and
hence of the last opportunity to influence the emperor and high-ranking bureaucrats in
favour of Christianity.123 But the links with the thriving Christian exclaves of the
Xiwanzi and Anjiazhuang preserved Beijing’s Christians as members of a wider
religious movement, which had learnt to rely on the almost exclusive spiritual and
practical guidance of half a dozen Chinese priests.124 The 1820s and 1830s also
experienced localised persecutions in Xi’an and in the Central China Plain. Despite
121
Cf. APF source SC, series III, Cina e Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, f. 163.
Huc, Souvenirs of a Journey, volume I, pp. 3-4 has an account - supplied by the editor J.-M.
Planchet - of the development of the Xiwanzi community. From 1828 until 1847, this village also
became the nerve centre of the French mission to the Chinese capital, independent from the Portuguese
administration located at the Nantang in Beijing. The spiritual affairs of the community were largely
uninfluenced by European missionaries, but from 1835 until 1842 the French Lazarist Joseph Martial
Mouly (Meng Zhensheng ) assumed the eminent role of Vicar Apostolic. Mouly was
consecrated as Bishop (of Fussulan) in Honggouzi  (Shanxi) in July 1842, and four years
later Vicar Apostolic of Beijing - a position he had retained when he was able to restore the French
mission in Beijing in 1868. Mouly, Vicar Apostolic of Beijing and North Zhili from 1856-1868, was
buried in the Zhengfusi  cemetery within the new Beitang, the reconstruction of which he
had supervised in person. See Huc, Souvenirs of a Journey, volume I, p. 3, note 4.
123 Cf. Zhang Ze, Qingdai jinjiaoqi de tianzhujiao, pp. 214-216.
124 The six priests were strengthened by the successive presences of Mouly (1835-1842), Joseph Gabet
(1837-1842), Evarist-Regis Huc (1841-1842), Florent Daguin (1843, died in Kulitu in 1859) and
Joseph Carayon (1843, died in Henan in 1848). In addition to Xie Madou and John-Chrysostom Kho
(Chinese name unknown) there were four secular priests. See Huc, Souvenirs of a Journey, volume I, p.
39. On the development of the concept of secular priests in the China mission, see F. Margiotti, Il
cattolicismo nello Shansi, p. 292 ff.
122
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the relative relaxation of the situation for China’s Christian population, the threat to
foreign missionaries was as imminent as ever. This was exemplified as late as in 1840,
with the arrest and execution of P. Perboyre (Dong Wenxue , a missionary
belonging to the Congregation de la Mission. The priest had entered the mainland
through Macau in 1835, and travelled as far as Nanyang in Henan Province,
relying on the courage of the Christians of Hubei and Henan to defy the ban on
receiving foreign missionaries in their homes. Having been informed upon by an
apostate, the magistrate of Wuchang acted swiftly in arresting the European,
and had him crucified and executed through strangulation. 125
The starting point for an organised transfer of missionaries into the territory of
the Qing empire can be set in 1829, when the Order of St Vincent (Congregatio
Missionis) decided to send Chinese novices to France in order to undergo spiritual
confirmation and missionary training. Simultaneously, more than thirty novices from
the Vincentian seminaries in Macau were being prepared for missionary service - two
of whom arrived in Beijing shortly after the departure of the Chinese Lazarist Xue
Madou in order to assist the remaining three Chinese priests. The ageing Lazarist
administrator of the Beijing diocese and nominal Bishop of Nanjing, Gaetano Pires
Pereira, lived long enough to witness the arrival of the Portuguese priest Jean de
Franca Castro e Moura in 1831. When seven years later, on 2 November 1838, Pereira
died,126 Castro e Moura (Chinese surname Zhao ) remained in the capital until in
125
The “martyrdom” of the CM missionary produced an avalanche of hagiographic writings in the
Catholic press. For more information concerning the last years of the missionary, see for instance A.
Milon, Mémoires de la Congrégation de la Mission, Paris: [Congrégation de la Mission] 1912, pp. 572580. Perboyre’s execution paradoxically also marks the beginning of a new area of openness towards
missionaries from the West. The missionary zeal of the Lazarist priest E.-R. Huc (Gu Bocha
) was fired when he learned of his countryman’s death upon his arrival in Macau shortly
after the event. See Huc, Souvenirs of a Journey, volume I, p. iii.
126 Pires Pereira, tolerated by the authorities due to his age, was buried by the Russian Mission. See
Huc, Souvenirs of a Journey, volume I, p. 146, note 1.
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1846 the new international situation had made a permanent foreign missionary
presence in the capital possible once again.127 By 1838, the delineations of twelve
bishoprics had been fixed by the Vatican - primarily with the intention of filling the
gaps left behind by the decades of prohibition, but also in order to pre-empt the everexpanding north-European Protestants from establishing a privileged missionary
presence. Following Pereira’s death, the Propaganda and individual Catholic orders
appointed a series of European missionaries to take up office as vicars apostolic.128
The thriving Christian communities in the provinces of Shaanxi and Sichuan had
already been assigned two capable bishops: Giuseppe Rizzolati (Li Wenxiu
) in 1831 for Shaanxi and Jacques Leo Perocheau (Chinese surname Ma
) for Sichuan in the year 1838.129 The following two years saw the appointment of
Alexis Rameaux (Zhang Daoyuan ) in 1838 for the Jiangnan provinces of
Jiangxi and Zhejiang, of Emmanuel J. Fr. Verrolles (Fang Jige ) in the same
year for Manchuria and Liaodong, of Gioacchino Salvetti, replacing Rizzolati as the
vicar apostolic for Shaanxi, who had been assigned the new role of vicar apostolic
over the Huguang double-province, and of Lodovico Conte de Besi (Luo Leisi
, alias Luo Boji , 1805-1871), both as the vicariate apostolic for
the newly formed diocese of Shandong (3 September 1839) and as bishop of Nanjing
(19 December 1839).130 The aftermath of the Opium War saw the creation of the
British Crown Colony of Hong Kong, which fortified the position of the foreign
missionaries and Chinese Christians in the Cantonese province alike. The period also
127
See Huc, Souvenirs of a Journey, volume I, pp. 1-3 and 34-35.
Including the young Mouly, who illegally entered the Christian community in Xiwanzi. See A.
Milon, Mémoires de la Congrégation de la Mission, pp. 575-579.
129 The earlier period of missionary activity in the province (up to 1738) is extensively covered in F.
Margiotti, Il cattolicismo nello Shansi.
130 For dates and biographical information, see Zhao Qingyuan,Zhongguo tianzhujiao jiaoqu huafen,
pp. 31-33.
128
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witnessed an increasingly sophisticated network of Catholic representation throughout
the empire. This pattern of smaller dioceses being carved out of larger bishoprics
could first be observed in 1831, when Korea was separated from the diocese of
Beijing - an organisational move repeated in 1839 for Shandong and in 1840 for
Mongolia and Manchuria.131 In parallel fashion, the provinces of Jiangxi and Zhejiang
were created as separate ecclesiastical units in 1846, the same year in which Guizhou
and Tibet132 were carved out of the Sichuanese diocese, and two years after Henan had
been separated from the bishopric of Nanjing. All of the new appointments were, as a
matter of course, given to Europeans, reversing the tendency towards greater - in many
cases exclusive - participation of Chinese clerics in Church administration of the
preceding decades. Out of the twelve dioceses created in 1838, all but four had
sanctioned the presence of Chinese clerics. To the Christians of the time, this
development seemed to present additional protection rather than a loss of sovereignty.
It bolstered those elements of the Christian population which had demonstrated a
much bolder attitude towards the imperial state during the later 1830s. Following the
news that the Jesuit order had been re-established by Papal decree in 1814, Christians
from “old congregations” in China wrote petitions to the emperor, begging for the
appointment of missionaries as officials at court. A group of Beijing Christians went
one step further and directed their plea to the newly elected Pope Gregory XVI (18321846). It is rather remarkable that the spokesman of this group, Boermingxiang’a
131
The two separate vicariates were created in August 1840, after they had been severed from Beijing
two years earlier by papal decree. Mouly thus succeeded Verolles of the Missions Etrangères as Vicar
Apostolic over Mongolia. See Huc, Souvenirs of a Journey, volume I, p. 42 and Ch. Dallet, Histoire de
l’Eglise de Corée , volume 1, pp. 26-82 for developments in Korea.
132 A church had already been erected by the Capuchins Joseph de Asculi and Francis de la Tour as
early as 1706. Following the expulsion of all Western nationals from Tibet in 1790, however, the
mission all but disappeared. In March 1846, the Vicariate of Tibet was granted exclusively to the
Missions Etrangères. See E. Huc, Souvenirs of a Journey, volume II, p. 279, note 1, and ibidem pp.
435-436.
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happened to be a member of the imperial clan, thus defying the
stringent prohibitions against Christianity among Bannermen.133
In brief, during the 1830s and the early 1840s the Christian communities in
China were showing signs of increasing self-confidence. As the effects of the Opium
War only made themselves felt later in the decade, this development should be seen as
largely unconnected to the growing military presence of the new European powers,
France and Britain, in southern China. Most of the missionary work during this period
was carried out by Chinese Christians, with European clerics either being too old and
infirm or too intimidated by the potential consequences to play a dominant role. Only
in the years after 1838 could a significant increase in the number of foreign
missionaries be observed. Hence, when the sequence of imperial edicts against
Christianity was finally rescinded in 1844, the number of Christians throughout the
empire had reached the level of the late Kangxi years (exceeding two hundred
thousand) with only marginal support from ecclesiastic structures outside China.134
These numbers should be treated as approximations, as Christianity had become a
very rural religion during the decades of prohibition, and the majority of China’s
Christians lived in remote or inaccessible areas.
The relationship between the Chinese state and Christianity was put on a
entirely new basis following the treaty between France and China in 1844, which
expressly entitled French missionaries to erect churches in the five treaty ports
established after the Opium War. On the penultimate day of the same year, the
Daoguang emperor proclaimed that the century of repression of Christianity had come
133
See Zhang Ze, Qingdai jinjiaoqi de tianzhujiao, p. 215.
Zhang Ze, Qingdai jinjiaoqi de tianzhujiao, p. 218 quotes 220,000 Christians for the year 1836,
Zhao Qingyuan, Zhongguo tianzhujiao jiaoqu huafen, p. 30 estimates 210,000 believers for the year
1815. Diverging numbers concerning Catholic clerics are given, with Zhang Ze quoting forty foreign as
134
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to an end. In a somewhat defensive justification of the prohibitive policy, the edict
was justified by the claim that certain Chinese subjects had sought to “avail
themselves to religion in order to ‘do wrong’”, and that the intention had not been to
ban Christianity as such.135 Little more than one year later, a second imperial edict
instructed the magistrates to respect Christians as morally upright people, who had
nothing in common with the followers of other heterodox beliefs. Hence the imperial
request to discontinue all official investigations - except when cases of insurrection of
nominal Christians were suspected:
Those practising Christianity ought to be spared from prosecution,
those who set up places of prayer in order to worship, as well as the use of
crucifixes, icons and statues, sutras, recitals need not be prosecuted...
Those who hold wicked beliefs or collude with people from afar who
spread wicked rumours, or bandits who use the name of Christianity in
order to cheat should all be regarded as treacherous criminals. Their names
ought to be obtained, and they should all be tried according to the
appropriate regulations. As before, foreigners will not be allowed to enter
the interior in order to propagate Christianity ... .
Though the edict cleared the way for the re-establishment of Christianity in
Beijing, missionary activity beyond the capital area and the treaty ports was still to be
opposed to eighty native missionaries, and Zhao Qingyuan offering a proportion of eighty-nine Chinese
priests compared with eighty foreign ones for 1815.
135 The memorial by Qiying of DG 25 (1845) quoted frequent objections by foreign (French
and Russian) representatives concerning the continued discrimination against Christianity. The
memorial emphasised that “[because] Christianity urged people to lead an upright life, it could not be
regarded as heresy; for this reason the ban against Christianity ought to be rescinded”
().
See
Wang
Zhichun, Qingchao rouyuan ji, p. 251. An earlier edict of DG 24, i.e. 1844 already stated that “every
Chinese who practised a religion ought to be punished if found in the pursuit of evil, though this does
not
apply
to
those
practising
foreign
religions
”
). Cited in Zhang Ze, Qingdai jinjiaoqi de
tianzhujiao, p. 222.
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outlawed for another fifteen years.136 The reluctance of the Qing administration to
close its eyes to religious movements labelled as "Christian" is vividly demonstrated
in a memorial of the year 1851. The memorial decries the contacts between Christians
in Sichuan province with those in the capital and with the “English aliens” (ying-yi
) from Guangdong province - a reference highlighting the growing importance
of Hong Kong in commercial and missionary matters.137 Christians in all localities
were so encouraged that they, once again, displayed their belief by publicly posting
Christian symbols on their doorposts (menpai ). Possession of printed
scriptures and pamphlets (shuji xinzhai ) was getting increasingly
commonplace. In the meantime, sectarian movements were proliferating all over
eastern China. One such “heretical sect”, whose leader referred to himself as the
“Great Celestial King”, tian dawang , was gaining adherents for his
“Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace” (Taiping tianguo ) so rapidly that
fast action was required.138 With the interior in open revolt, and the influence of the
See the zhupi by the Daoguang emperor of DG 26/1/25 (1846) in Appendix 3 (cited in
Zhang Ze, Qingdai jinjiaoqi de tianzhujiao, p. 224).
137 The memorial is by Pan Duo , with the date XF 1/4/2, (1851). See FHA, scroll 8875,
original document 2751, sub-number 9, frames 1955-1959. See also the follow-up to the investigation,
in FHA, scroll 8875, original document 2751, sub-number 10, frames 1960-1962, composed three days
later.
138 The Taiping leader Hong Xiuquan would have denied any “rebellious” intentions, in the belief of
merely executing the will of God (shangdi ). See Wagner, Reenacting the Heavenly Vision, pp.
36, 67-81 and 115 (on the significance of “translating”/ “reenacting” his divine vision into earthly
reality). For a vivid (contemporary Western) analysis of the Taiping leader see Rev. Johnson, “TaiPing-Wang”, in: The New Englander, July 1871, pp. 389-407.
136
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“Christian aliens” growing year by year, however, the Qing government found
decisive action ever more impossible.
Chapter 8:
The perplexed official: Christianity as heterodox mystery
Whereas the preceding chapter provided a chronological structure for the
period under discussion, the remainder of the third part is devoted to an analysis of the
phenomenon from three different angles. Chapters nine and ten will focus on the
perception of Christianity as a menace to the established order, first seen against the
background of internal rebellions, then as a consequence of the changing international
situation. The topic of the present eighth chapter, however, will be the intellectual
universe of the investigating official. How did a county magistrate understand the
world of popular religion? To which degree was his Confucian background relevant to
the analysis of sectarian developments? And finally, what can we learn from the
official terminology employed for the description of sectarians and their cultic rituals
and objects? The answers to these questions will, in the final analysis, contribute to a
better understanding of the process of Christianity’s inculturation - interpreted through
the eyes of the eighteenth century magistrate.
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1) Common elements in the description of heresy in official documents
“Religious scriptures, one box of sacrificial oil, a small white garment, one
necklace.” This is the official description of the contents of a briefcase used by a
missionary operating in the Shanghai area in the year 1823.1 Reports by officials
involved in action against Christian groupings abound in descriptions of sacramental
objects used by China’s underground Christians. Terms such as “liturgical registers”
(danlidan ), icons (tu ) and statues (xiang ), candles (zhu ),
incense (xiang ), rosaries (nianzhu )2 and sacred writings (jingjuan )
were recognisable to officials who had never concerned themselves with anything
Christian, as they formed routine components of Buddhist ritual. Objects exclusively
pertaining to Christian communities, such as the crucifix (shizijia ) or
specific Christian writings, e.g. the “True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven” (Tianzhu
shiyi ) escaped the familiarity of the religious landscape, and added an
air of mystery to official investigations.
a) Christianity as the heterodox unknown
Though the vast majority of official inquiries focused on popular expressions
of Christianity, there is some evidence that the Jesuits’ efforts among the literati had
yielded lasting results during the eighteenth century. The epigraphs composed by He
Shenhai g rade nine official and respected intellectual of Sichuanese
extraction, remind us of Christianity’s remaining vigour - and of its ongoing
inculturation into the cultural fabric of late imperial China, well beyond the confines
of the scholar-official elite. Until his death in 1826, he remained an unrepentant
1
The development of Christianity in the Pudong area is referred to in Ruan and Gao, Shanghai
zongjiao shi, p. 355.
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Christian, despite two police interrogations. The following example is intended to
illustrate some aspects of the “cultural twilight zone” which may have appeared
familiar to the prosecuting official, but which were sufficiently remote from the
mainstream discourse to take on an exotic impression:3
Among us ordinary mortals, everybody has to face death, as this has
been decreed by the Celestial Lord. The Holy Scripture says: ‘For those
millions of people, death has already been ordained; from the moment of
the Original Transgression, there has not been a single human being not to
die. Born out of soil, man will return to soil. The Celestial Lord does not
seek to alter the laws of the universe. Who [else] in this world would rival
the brilliance of the moon and the sun?’ I shall heap praise on my father’s
name, who at the beginning of the previous emperor’s rule learned of the
Correct Transmission of the True Path, who deeply believed in the
mysteries of the Three-in-One [i.e. Trinity], and who kept the Two-timesFive Prohibitions [i.e. Ten Commandments] strictly and without
negligence. At that time, all the members of his family received the grace
of Baptism through Father Johannes Ruo, correcting their mistaken ways.
At this moment it was as if a deaf person regained hearing, or as if a blind
person regained eye-sight. For the eternal memory of my father .... this
stele was inscribed and erected on the morning of an auspicious day in the
winter of year twenty-one of the Jiaqing reign period.4
Also referred to as meiguijing (“rose litanies”).
The “Veritable Records of the Jiaqing Emperor” contain the memorial “The case of the arrest of He
Shenhai and other Christians”, T
 he memorial is reprinted in
Zhang
Ze,
Qingdai
jinjiaoqi
de
tianzhujiao,
p.
97
ff.):










4 I.e. 1816, (ibidem).
2
3
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This account by a second generation Christian is revealing for the terminology
chosen to represent what the author believed to be the key elements constituting a
truly “Christian” identity: Images of the moon and the sun were commonly used in
popular religious life, and are believed to have originated from White Lotus ideology.
Expressions such as “The Upright Path” and “The Left Path” for orthodox and
heretical beliefs respectively, were commonly accepted in imperial China. So was the
syncretic idea of the Three Teachings (of Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism)
originally forming part of one universal Truth - very directly alluded to in “the
mystery of the three-in-one” - the image chosen to illustrate the concept of the
Trinity.5 The decision to divide the Ten Commandments into “two times five
prohibitions” stems directly from the five Buddhist prohibitions, against murdering,
adultery, theft, and the breaking of the fast. The fact that an “auspicious morning” is
mentioned for the interment indicates that the astrological concepts of the lunar
(“peasant”) calendar were common currency even among China’s Christian
population. The “Teachings of the Lord of Heaven” thus encountered little
fundamental resistance during the course of its inculturation. Parallels - perceived,
constructed or genuine - such as the ones highlighted above, on the contrary
empowered Christianity to become integrated into the contemporary religious system.6
The term Three-in-One (san-yi ) was of course also used for the syncretic teachings of Lin
Zhaoen, who in turn built on the foundations of earlier syncretistic currents. See K. Dean, Lord of the
Three in One, p. 21.
6 This assumption runs counter to theories, for instance as expressed by Nicolas Standaert for the late
Ming period, emphasising the high degree of theological awareness of converts among the literati. In
Yang Tingyun, p. 204, Standaert highlights the fact that Yang had been a member of different Buddhist
benevolent societies prior to conversion - a fact which made him conscious of the differences between
the two religions. See also his “Inculturation and Chinese-Christian Contacts”, p. 217, stating
Standaert’s view of Yang Tingyun as “only the beginning of [Christian] inculturation in China”.
5
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In addition to the epitaph itself, He Shenhai’s son attached six poles with
traditional four and five character couplets. These scrolls read: “After a Meritorious
Life, Returning to the Tomb”shirong guimu); “The Eternal Light Shine
Upon Him” (yongguang zhaozhi ) “Abandoning the Tomb at
Resurrection the Extreme Ultimate will Reign Supreme” (fuhuo chumu, taiji
gongchao ); “It is Heaven’s Will to Restrain Oneself
and a Saintly Prerogative to Negate the Self” (tianju xu ke-ji, shengyu gui wang-wu
), and finally “The Ten Commandments bring
Boundless Fortune, the Seven Victories Abundant Bliss” (shijie wuxianfu, qike
youyuqi ).7 Once again, the author entwines
accepted orthodoxy with Christian doctrine: The concept of the “Absolute” (taiji
) has its origins in the cosmology of early Song Confucians;8 the idea of moral
victory through “self-restraint” (ke-ji ) had been cultivated by Confucian literati
during the eighteenth century to religious proportions, and would therefore have
appeared as a very natural component of a virtuous life style.9 Its Buddhist precursor,
the concept of “self-denial” (wang-wu , i.e. the extermination of the egoistic
drive for self-preservation) figures harmoniously as part of the same couplet. Clearly
Christian images are the “Eternal Light”, “Heaven” and the “Resurrection”. Apart
from documenting the survival of Christianity within the Chinese elite, this source is
revealing in another aspect: He Shenhai’s interpretation of Christian theology is
indicative of the degree of Christianity’s inculturation. Though produced by and for a
member of the literati elite, the inscription is typical of late imperial syncretism, which
7
Cf. Zhang Ze, Qingdai jinjiaoqi de tianzhujiao, pp. 204-205.
... and stretches, in fact, back to the Zhou period. See Overmyer, Precious Volumes, p. 87.
9 For a discussion of Diego Pantoja’s Seven Victories (or “seven restraints” Qi ke ) over sin, see
B. A. Elman, Classicism, Politics, and Kinship, pp. 90-91.
8
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by the outgoing eighteenth century had become deeply rooted in the “little” traditions
of China’s rural population. The official language used to describe Christian as well as
other types of religious movements was indeed highly similar. State officials seemed
perplexed by the Christianity’s role in the world of popular religiosity. In their
combination of liturgical and spiritual practice, the members of other late imperial
popular religious movements, for instance the One Stick of Incense (yizhuxiang
), the Red Sun (hongyang ), the Western Mahayana (xidasheng
) or the followers of the Emperor Lü (lühuang ) resembled those of
the
Christian
community,
itself
known
as
Master
of
Heaven
Sect
(tianzhujiao). Theological parallels to Christianity can be found in the
concepts of the Hongyang Sect (hongyangjiao ), combining elements such
as “heaven” and “hell” with those of a “Celestial Master of the Eight Heavens”
(batian tianzhu ) - tianzhu , or “Celestial Master”, also being the
term for the god of the Christians.10
Faithful to the traditions of popular Chinese religion, Chinese Christians also
showed deep respect for the religious identity of their parents. This parallel is revealed
in a memorial enumerating the “crimes” committed by the Christian commoner Li
Tianyi , of Laojiazhuang in Zhili province. While the memorial
centres on the production and distribution of statues, pictures and of scriptures, we
learn that Li Tianyi stood accused of cultivating an illegal creed he held in common
with his father. The memorial, composed in the year 1782, further informs us that Li
Tianyi regularly undertook journeys to Beijing, in order to stock up on Christian
writings and paraphernalia, which would then be distributed among his fellow
10
See Ma Xisha and Han Binfang, Zhongguo minjian zongjiaoshi, pp. 507 and 918.
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Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
believers.11 Nowhere in the memorial do we read anything about the precise nature of
the material - the mere fact that he dared to contravene the laws of the empire was
sufficient for the state administrator to act. Whether sculptures found in connection
with forbidden cults were “Buddhist”, “Daoist” or “Christian” was of little immediate
concern. The emphasis is on the fact that they constituted ritualistic tools utilised for
prohibited sectarian activities, and that the movements which practised and spread
their use had to be treated as a danger to order in the empire. Punishment of the few
would serve as an example to the erring masses, and effectively protect the state from
the consequences of instability. As in the case of He Shenhai’s son, there is a direct
connection between Li Tianyi’s respect for the mental universe of his father and his
own commitment to Christianity as a living tradition. The difference between the two
cases is determined by the social and educational backgrounds of the two protagonists:
While the He clan can be regarded as a typical representative of scholar officialdom,
Li Tianyi’s origins are more mundane. The source reveals Li’s rural origins, though it
leaves us unenlightened with regard to his intellectual training.
The uncovering of heterodox movements in the countryside was, during the
eighteenth century, a familiar task for state officials. Owing to the Confucian
scepticism inculcated into every prospective candidate, the intellectual elite certainly
had strong reservations about the quality of unsanctioned religious devotion among
the rural masses. The distinction between orthodox religious rituals and the disdained
yet tolerated cults of the peasantry was, on the whole, highly artificial, since religious
cults of all varieties could be found at every level of Chinese society: Buddhist and
Daoist locations of worship were ubiquitous, transcending the narrow definition of
The memorial by the governor general for Zhili, Mei Guang , can be inspected as FHA, scroll
9258, original document 493, sub-number 34, frame 391-392. It is dated QL 46/12/27, i.e. 9/2/1782.
11
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“religious” function even at the level of the scholar-official elite. Worship at the
temple of the city gods was considered part of the magistrates’ official duties,12 while
the culmination of the rites performed at court was the prayer of the emperor, the
symbolic beacon of the Confucian order, at the Temple of Heaven for a bountiful
harvest.13 The decisive element for the classification as “heterodoxy” thus lay in the
compliance of popular cults with the religious patterns set by the political elite. The
religious beliefs of ignorant tillers, many officials concluded, may have been
erroneous and not conducive to the preservation of law and order, but could not be
regarded as malevolent moral subversion. State officials thus acted regardless of
“religious” considerations, and rather judged the members of proscribed teachings as
representatives of socially destabilising factors. The undiscerning attitude of state
inspectors as to the precise quality of the community’s doctrine and ritual is reflected
in the language used for describing seized objects and scriptures. The emphasis was
firmly placed on whether or not they represented prohibited sectarian movements, and
thus had to be treated as a danger to order in the empire. Lenient officials would
conclude that the followers of heresy were simple, unrefined mountain folk, deluded
by rumours that by following Christianity one could perfect one’s moral standards
without breaking the law. An example of the latter is the high-ranking Asiha,
12
From the Ming dynasty onwards, magistrates were to perform regular sacrifices at a local shrine
(litan ) to the God of the Walls and Moats (cheng-huang , equivalent of the Roman
Pluto), as well as to the “neglected spirits and ghosts” (wusi gui-shen ). See K. C. Hsiao,
Rural China, p. 220 ff.
13 From the late Ming period onwards the rite was performed according to Daoist ritual, with the God
of Heaven (“Supreme God Ruling Heaven” huang-tian shangdi ) at its focus. Members
of the Confucian elite who followed the tradition of scepticism towards transcendental phenomena
would thus have been tested to their limits - although the sacrificial rites were performed by Confucian
officials. The “public” quality of the sacrifice seem to differ chiefly in its degree of sophistication from
the theatrical performances organised for the general public. See Stephan Feuchtwang, “School-Temple
and City God”, pp. 600-601, 605 and p. 762, note 12; note also the following footnote, containing
remarks by the magistrate of Wei xian in Shandong referring to popular theatrical performances. A
detailed description of the imperial cult at the Temple of Heaven can be found in E. T. Williams, “The
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pondering a case of Christian “heresy” in Henan. “Their belief”, he concluded,
“merely urged people to respect the Ruler of the Universe, and not to lead a
debauched lifestyle.14 The Christians congregate in order to burn incense and to read
aloud the scriptures.” These accusations are reminiscent of those against vegetarian
societies and “incense associations” (xianghui ),15 “confused” in their practices
- such as fasting at home - but not necessarily “criminal”.16
State Religion of China during the Manchu Dynasty”, in: Journal of the North China Branch of the
Royal Asiatic Society, (new series) XLIV (1913), pp. 23-39.
14 The FHA document is entitled “The Case of Christianity in Tongbo District, Henan”
 and is already referred to on p. 161 ff. of this thesis.
15 See Susan Naquin and Chü-fang Yü, “Pilgrimage in China”, in S. Naquin and Chü-fang Yü (eds),
Pilgrimage in China, p. 12.
16 (“In the fields they serve
as tillers and act in impeccable manner, at home they fast and practise their cults ... but by no means
they are criminals”) Reprinted in the Shiliao xunkan , section ‘Heaven’, volume 2,
pp. 48-50, entitled “A Luojiao Case” (, Jiangxi, 1730).
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b) Christianity as heretical subversion
Whatever the personal inclination of the individual state official towards
religion, the philosopher-statesman in the very same official demanded the extirpation
of any social developments with potentially “subversive” effects on society. Lack of
stability threatened both social cohesion and the legal and military security of the
state. Disturbed stability grew out of disturbed minds - a consequence of the
unchecked proliferation of “heretical” beliefs. As it was the effects of heresy which
posed the threat - and not the beliefs as such - officials were under obligation to report
on any type of un-orthodox religious movement. The routine style and vocabulary of
reporting heterodox incidents underlines these conclusions: Villagers are referred to as
“ignorant” (yu ) bait waiting to be lured into ideas and organisations they could not
possibly comprehend. Their minds are “confused” (hunxiao), “unclear,
disturbed” (hutu), “chaotic” (huo), “unable to awaken” (wei-neng-xing
) - hence the need for the strict but fatherly action of emperor and state. The
hazy terminology mirrored the officials’ unclear perception of the nature of popular
cults. Clutching to partial knowledge of some of the more wide-spread cults, the
authorities tagged every unknown movement with qualifications that could be
employed for any of the other sectarian movements.17 From our documentary evidence
it appears that Christianity, or at least certain elements of it, continued to be regarded
favourably by most members of the eighteenth century elite. Towards the beginning of
the subsequent century, however, the sources indicate a stiffening of the official stance
towards popular Christianity. In the following, the factors contributing towards this
perception will be distilled from representative sources.
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Why did the state intensify its campaign against Chinese Christianity towards
the turn of the nineteenth century? This fact can only be explained by taking into
account the lure of Christian ideas on the non-educated population, and the fear of
popular religious movements escaping the control of the state. At least for the early
nineteenth century there is proof of certain elements of Christian practice being
emulated by non-Christians, such as the use of the crucifix and of pamphlets
containing spiritual commandments.18 The following observations by Antonius of
Calatia, with reference to his missionary field of Shanxi, further underline the
tendencies favouring the mutual inculturation of Christian and other cults:
.. the Devil occupies the borderline to the divine, as an untiring imitator.
Such are the practices of the Buddhist priests, who are frequently
attempting to copy the rites of the Christians. The Buddhists have a certain
statue for making rain,19 which they clothe in their own Buddhist garb,
here referred to as jiasha  [kasaya]. Their altars are now arranged in
the same fashion as those of the Christians. Several now also have the
hierarchical functions of deacon and subdeacon. Apostates have
accommodated a number of litanies to the Virgin Mary by merely altering
[her] proper name in order to suit them to their own idols. If we hence
would want to attempt to pre-empt everything that seems to be in common
with [the cults of] the idolaters, there is no doubt that we would have to
abstain from many approved rites. [...] Our Christians ... obviously take
delight in chanting in vocal profusion to our God, but no European
missionary would detect in their hymns anything superstitious, or any
reason to prohibit them.20
17 The followers of the Huangtian  as well as of the Luo sectwere frequently the target
of state prosecution. See Qin Baoqi, Zhongguo dixia shehui, p. 225 and D. Overmyer, Folk Buddhist
Religion, pp. 7-11.
18 After Ma Xisha and Han Bingfang, Zhongguo minjian zongjiaoshi, p. 1238. The reasons for
choosing the title “Religion of Celestial Bamboo” (Tianzhujiao , quoted in de Groot,
Sectarianism and Religious Persecution, p. 513) for a sect active around 1830 in Henan may have been
in its protective homophony with the Tianzhujiao for Catholicism - suggesting that Christianity was a
well-established belief by this time.
19 ... remembering that Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces are located in the arid north-west of China. The
practice itself certainly has thus more of a local flavour than it could possibly be regarded as Buddhist.
20 Antonio de Calatia, reporting from the Shanxi mission in October 1806. Cf. APF SC, series III, Cina
e Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, ff. 174 R and V. The passage has been freely translated from the
following original: ... Diabolus sit quasi divinitatis limia, seu impluribus imitator, ita est praecipia
ipsius membra Bonzios inquam ritus Christianorum in multis imitari studeant; sic Bonzii sibi vestem
consuerunt, hic Casa [] vocant, quaequae pluvialis figuram habet. Nunc etiam altaria juxta
Christianorum altarium exemplar disponunt. Plures etiam nunc duobus ministris in Modum Diaconi et
Subdiaconi utuntur nuperrimè quidam. Apostata solo nomine mutato varios litaniarum Beatae Mariae
versis ad honorem Idoli sui accommodavit. Proinde si velimus ea omnia devitare quae nobis cum
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But even during the early eighteenth century, certain officials did not refrain
from branding Christianity a “heretical” religion, usually by comparing the cultic
practice of the Christians and other religious groups using the same doctrinal
parameters. The writings of Matteo Ripa, who visited Linqing  (Shandong
province) in the early 1720s, seem to confirm this. Ripa refers to the prefect of
Yanzhou fu , who ordered the local magistrate to prevent the spread of the
local Christian community. The same prefect, Ripa continues, declined to name the
Christians specifically as followers of tianzhujiao , reminding the
magistrate that all “heretical movements” (sette false / xiejiao ) should be
treated along the same, uncompromising criteria. The treatment of such Christian
“heretics” thus corresponded with the commonly applied measures against followers
of other heterodox movements: 30 strokes of the cane (bastonnati) for each disciple of
Christian teachings, with bribes accepted for more lenient treatment, and heavier
punishment meted out in cases of non-compliance with police authority.21 Most
reports classifying Christians as “heretics” stem, however, from the turn of the
nineteenth century. The following testimony by Antonio Luigi Landi, on the
consequences of the persecutions triggered by the Adeodato affair, eighty years after
the Yongzheng edict, illustrates the typical procedure of punitive action against
Christian “heretics”. The key officials in the Supreme Council, we are informed,
issued the imperial edict announcing measures against “all Christians, without any
idolatris communia videntur, non dubium est, quin a multis rebus licitis abstinendum sit. [...] De variis
autem abusibus, ..., plovant quidam, vel si magis placet, ululant Christiani nostri ... turbamque tumultu
autem in Divitum Exequiis videre est, sed cum his omnibus nulla immisceatur superstitio nullusque
Missionarius Europaeus hujusmodi exequiis interesse solitus sit .. ea tolerantur.
21 See the letter by Carlo da Castorano to Matteo Ripa in Michele Fatica (ed.), Matteo Ripa, Giornale
(1705-1724), Vol. II (1711-1716), p. 344 ff.
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difference” to all provincial governors. But instead of encompassing the entirety of the
Christian community, district magistrate functionaries often preferred to apprehended
individual Christians, well-known in their community. These were then subjected to
torture to force the Christians to renege on their faith.22 One such example was a
Christian merchant from Beijing who, having visited the local community on previous
occasions, was recognised and arrested at the border between the Huguang and
Guangdong province. He had been expected by the buon conduttore (of his
congregation) Mauro Li and Gioacchino Salvetti on the banks of the river forming the
border between the provinces. Of Mauro Li we learn that his family had fallen victim
to the persecutions of the early Jiaqing years.23 As part of a major sweep-up operation
aimed at eradicating support for sectarian cults in the provinces, the family members
(tutti i parenti) of Mauro Li were arrested, led to Taiyuan-fu  and handed
over to the provincial governor of Shanxi. What ensued was reminiscent of the trials
against popular religious movements in general: First the “core offenders” were
interrogated as to the nature of their beliefs and to find out the names of their fellow
sectarians. Then neighbours and “gentiles” who were known to have been in contact
with the sectarians were questioned, occasionally revealing the identity of further
converts. In the case of Mauro Li’s family, we are informed that the governor was
impressed by the serenity of the answers, tanto semplice e pulite, who stuck to their
beliefs without trying to deny their allegiance to Christianity or to denigrate their
22
Letter by A. Luigi Landi (da Signa), Pu Huo (Shanxi), 7 March 1806. Recorded as APF document
SC, series III, Cina and Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, folium 105: I grandi mandarini del supremo
consiglio, ..., avendo tutti uniti dato fuoro un editto ad ogni vicerè della Provincia, in virtù di cui
ciascun christiano sine discrimine differentia dovera essere cattuvato, e sforzato anche col uso de più
squisiti tormenti a rinnegere la Sancta Fede.
23 Ibidem, folium 106.
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neighbours.24 Mauro himself was later exiled to three years of slavery in Yili, while
his foreign missionary friends were to be deported to Europe.25
Another clear example of the perceived educative role of the state can be
found in a memorial sent by the high-ranking military officials Fusejian’e
, Pusabao , Guang Xing and the veteran White Lotus
opponent Eledengbao , in the last days of his life.26 The memorial
follows interrogations of soldiers in the cavalry, subordinates of the officer Tong
Hengxi , who had stood accused of adhering to Christianity.27 Defying
repeated attempts by the well-wishing representatives of the imperial government to
enlighten the transgressors for progress towards moral perfection, the accused Banner
soldiers would “not want to know anything of changing for the better and awakening
from their torpor” (buzhi qianshan gaiwu ). Moreover, the
sectarians refused to accept the generous offer by the high-ranking commanders to
receive enlightenment, and thus stubbornly remained “blindly superstitious”. All
fatherly benevolence having failed, the officials felt that there was no alternative to
strict punishment for all clandestine Christians within the Banner.28
24
Ibidem, folium 106 R.
This refers to Gioacchino Salvetti, who later returned to the China mission.
26 See the memorial of 9/5/1805, by Eledengbao et al. (FHA, scroll 9260, original document 498, subnumber 39). The memorial is simply entitled with the official attributes of the Manchurian commander
Eledengbao (it reads: “Eledengbao, hereditary First Class Brave, Commander of the Imperial
Bodyguard and Military Governor of the Regular Blue Han Banner troops, respectfully requests to
submit
a
truthful
account
...
”

... - thus giving the memorial all the weight deemed commensurate for
dealing with the crisis.
27 Literally, of “practising and studying Western religion” (xixue xiyangjiao ). The
emphasis of Christianity's “foreign” quality was indicative of the changing international situation at the
beginning of the nineteenth century.
28 E
 ledengbao in the same
memorial: “We reckon that the commander ordered them not to mend their ways. The soldiers
[therefore] stubbornly clung to superstition and did not awaken to reason”.
25
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Punitive official action was indicative of the conviction that only the state had
the power and organisational strength to set parameters for doctrine. There were no
religious institutions with all-embracing authority which could have challenged the
claim to define the parameters of orthodoxy. Confucianism, with its emphasis on
ritual, thus entitled and obliged the state to assume quasi-religious authority, as well as
to educate the common people, to protect these from heretical teachings just as parents
would shield their children from bad influences.29 The function of state action against
heresy was to protect ignorant subjects from teachings designed to lead them astray
from the path of peaceful tilling. Religious groups acting without having been
sanctioned by the state had to be prevented from growing into large, homogenous
bodies.
For the Christian communities of the eighteenth century, a major threat arose
out of the growing hostility of religious movements branded as “subversive” against
the prevailing dynasty, in particular from the 1770s onwards.30 Even more threatening
was the fact that some “heretical” insurgents sought shelter among the relatively
inconspicuous Christians, also referring to themselves as followers of a Tianzhu jiao
. The Franciscan cleric Michael Fernández Oliver spelt out the main threat
to the success of Christianity among Shandong’s peasant population:
29
Though the struggle against superstition had been a key element of Confucian state orthodoxy from
the beginnings of the imperial era, we should be very careful not to impose twentieth century definitions
for concepts such as “atheism”, “superstition” and “religion” - especially when used with a materialist
bias. The modern Chinese equivalents for these terms (i.e. zongjiao , wushen,  and mixin
) are ultimately Western loan words introduced via the Japanese medium. See Julia Ching,
Chinese Religions, pp. 1-9.
30 For an introduction to sixteenth and seventeenth century baojuan composed in the Hongyang
tradition, see D. Overmyer, Precious Volumes, pp. 321-343. Otherwise, see S. Naquin, Shantung
Rebellion, p. 38 ff. and Ma Zhao, “Shilun Qianlong shiqi (1736-1796) chajin tianzhujiao shijian”, p. 23.
The greatest contribution of the Yuandun movement was the publication of the Dragon Flower Sutra
(Longhuajing ) between 1652 and 1655. See R. H. C. Shek, “Religion and Society”, pp.
287-299. The Shouyuan  sect is discussed in S. Naquin, Shantung Rebellion, p. 189, note
120.
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... perversos hombres, maestros de una perversa secta ..., with the
same name as ourselves. ... The villagers, whenever they hear our name
mentioned, become frightened and act as much against us, more than they
otherwise would, as against the genuine followers of that sect. In the
province of Henan, where the sect has thousands and millions of
followers, ... confessions were extracted from the followers by using
threats and beatings with a ruler. I therefore request your approval to build
a church in order to oppose this demonic monster.31
It is noteworthy that the term “perverse sect” is the exact translation of the legal term
used by the Chinese state to describe unauthorised, heretical beliefs (xiejiao ).
The reference to the use of the “same name” of Tianzhujiao is important, as
- by the end of the eighteenth century - the presence of foreign missionaries had been
substantially diminished. The Western imprint of Christianity had thus faded
significantly, although it was still recognisable - and “mysterious” - to the
investigating official. Since foreign missionaries were no longer available to offer
help, religious movements which “borrowed” the name of the Christian sect could
expect more lenient treatment by state officials. This fact can be regarded as one of the
facets of Christianity's inculturation process: By the end of the eighteenth century, its
foreign origins no longer constituted an obstacle to the communication between
Christianity and other religious movements.
Christian missionaries spread the knowledge of their faith through two
channels: Orally, by visiting locations situated in between their home bases and
neighbouring communities, and by means of woodblock prints. Such prints would
encompass works by the early Jesuit missionaries, as well as later adaptations. From
31 See Sinica Franciscana VIII, p. 858. For more information on the formation and structure of the
“false Catholics” as a manifestation of the White Lotus movement, see Qin Baoqi, Zhongguo dixia
shehui, pp. 21-31 and 119-131.
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the history of Buddhist publications we know that, once carved and safely stored, such
woodblocks could be used over many decades for the reproduction of religious
prints.32 In the following, the significance of the written medium will be discussed,
alongside some of the more important titles circulated by Christians during the
eighteenth century.33
32
Emphasised by T. H. Barrett, in “Ignorance and the Technology of Information”, p. 25. Barrett refers
to J. P. Drège, “Les aventures de la typographie et les missionnaires protestants en Chine au XIXe
siècle”, in: Journal Asiatique, CCLXXX-3/4 (1992), p. 279 ff., as well as Tsien Tsuien-hsien, volume
V, part 1, Joseph Needham (ed.), Science and Civilisation in China, Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press 1985, “Paper and Printing”, pp. 196-251.
33 Most of the listed titles have been perused for the present thesis, namely at the British Library
(Oriental and India Office Collections) and at the Chinese National (Peking) Library. A thematic
introduction to these titles would, however, have required significantly more space and has therefore
been omitted.
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2. “Christian sutras”
a) Textual Traditions in Late Imperial China
As their Buddhist competitors had done for over fifteen centuries, the Catholic
missionaries put great emphasis on the provision of written materials which could be
employed for the propagation of their faith.34 The Bible in its entirety would only
become available once the Protestant missionaries of the early nineteenth century had
entered the Chinese mission field.35 To what extent, however, did the absence of a
comprehensive Bible translation matter to the Chinese convert? It should firstly be
remembered that the relative value of the Bible is less pronounced in the Catholic
tradition than in the reformed churches, which were after all created in order to
“return” to the scriptural origins of Christianity. Secondly, despite the fact that the
Confucian tradition had enshrined its own classical writings (jing ) into a fixed
canon, there is no parallel in Chinese religious culture to the Christian concept of a
divinely ordained “Alpha to Omega” - of a permanently fixed scriptural edifice which
cannot be altered through human intervention.36 The heterodox movements of late
imperial China, on the contrary, actively added an incessant flow of religious
scriptures (also referred to as jing ), either Daoist texts or Buddhist sutras, to the
34
A comprehensive bibliography of Chinese translations of European writings can be found in Henri
Bernard, “Les Adaptions chinoises d’ouvrages européens: Bibliographie chronologique depuis la venue
des portugais à Canton jusqu’à la mission française de Pékin, 1514-1688”, in: Monumenta Serica:
Journal of Oriental Studies of the Catholic University of Peking, X (1945), pp. 1-57 and 309-388. H.
Verhaeren’s Catalogue de la Bibliothèque du Pé-T'ang, Beijing: Imprimerie des Lazaristes 1949
reflects the wealth of European sources the Jesuit translators could draw on.
35 See Marshall Broomhall, The Bible in China, pp. 50-97. The Bible in China was published to
commemorate the 120th anniversary of Robert Morrison’s translation of the New Testament. Preceding
the first full Bible translation to appear in China - Shentian shengshu  (“Divine heaven’s
sacred scripture”), 1823, by R. Morrison and W. Milne - was J. Marshman’s version published after
1815 in India. See also W. W. Moseley, The Origins of the First Protestant Mission to China, London:
Simpkin and Marshall 1842 and Jost O. Zetsche, The Bible in China: History of the ‘Union Version’ or
The Culmination of Protestant Missionary Bible Translation in China, Sankt Augustin: Steyler Verlag
1999. On the gestation of the first Chinese Catholic Bible version, see B. Willeke, “Das Werden der
chinesischen katholischen Bibel”, in: Neue Zeitschrift für Missionswissenschaft XVI (1960), pp. 281295.
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popular religious universe.37 The state examination system produced a highly literate
elite, to whom the education of the general population was a moral imperative.
Through gentry-funded initiatives and traditional village schools, pupils in rural China
received their basic education trough the medium of the “Three-Character Classic”,
Sanzijing , and therefore possessed a basic degree of familiarity with
Confucian principles and with the style of canonical writings.38 China’s semi-literate
villagers thus shared the same respect for the written word as the Confucian elite, and
quite naturally allocated great importance to religious ideas codified in written form.
The constant generation of religious writings by Christian missionaries for this reason
must have seemed like a very natural process of religious rejuvenation.39
By the middle of the Qing period, the state institutions had become sufficiently
aware of the threat emanating from sectarian movements to ban the distribution of
their writings as the “spreading and teaching of heretical religion” (xichuan xiejiao
). This policy must be seen against the background of millenarian
Buddhism, which from the 1430s proliferated as a direct consequence of the
popularity of baojuan .40 Sectarian writings appealing to rural populations
would often be concealed by orthodox titles and an official-looking “coating”: Pages
36 For a comparative analysis of the written word in Christendom and in China, see Xiaochao Wang,
Christianity and Imperial Culture, pp. 184-186.
37 See Barend ter Haar, Ritual and Mythology of the Chinese Triads, pp. 170-177 (on the use of writing
and scripture recitation in sacrificial and blood bond societies).
38 Though still far from any notion of “universal”, the educational system of late imperial China
profited from the educationalism inherent in Confucianism. Many rural districts, in particular in the
Jiangnan, had an ample supply of charity schools (yixue ), community schools (shexue )
and private academies (shuyuan ). See K. C. Hsiao, Rural China, pp. 235-258.
39 Protestant educational ambitions, for instance the Morrison Educational Society, would benefit from
the same phenomenon during the nineteenth century. See Alice Henrietta Gregg, China and
Educational Autonomy: The Changing Role of the Protestant Educational Missionary in China, 18071937, Syracuse / New York: Syracuse University Press 1946 (UMI print 1977), pp. 12-18.
40 See R. H. C. Shek, “Religion and Society in Late Ming”, pp. 155-157. Not unlike the Communist
literary propaganda of the 1940s and 1950s, baojuan frequently played on the theme of moral fortitude
in adverse conditions. The use of baojuan by the founder of the Luo movement should be seen as a
measure of its popularity, since its founder Luo Qing  (1442-1527) disapproved of the “empty
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of officially approved religious commentaries concealing a heterodox textual core.
The state acted against sectarian movements by impounding as many baojuan as
officials could lay their hands on, and by sending the woodblock matrixes to the
imperial capital, for inspection by the Grand Council and for ultimate destruction.41
The incriminated persons fared little better: The standard punishment for the
possession of subversive writings was one hundred blows with the heavy cane.42
Officials were employed in certain provinces with the sole task of producing
Confucian counter-propaganda in the guise of such sectarian writings, in order to
“enlighten the commoners”. During the late imperial period, books were being printed
for an ever-increasing audience in the metropoles of eastern China, percolating as
second-hand items along the main waterways into the empire’s vast interior. Their
contents invariably reflected the mental preoccupations of the readership - whether
this audience formed part of the elite or belonged to a more common background and were easily affected by social change.43 The writings of Christian missionaries
followed this time-honoured literary tradition of religious expression, rejuvenating the
vocabulary of popular religiosity with new names and concepts, yet remaining truthful
to the style and argumentative structure of their Confucian and Buddhist competitors.
In the following we will analyse some of the “Christian sutras” read and distributed
during the century of prohibition.
recitation” of religious tracts - and of Maitreyanism in particular. Cf. Zhou Yumin and Shao Yong,
Zhongguo huibang shi, pp. 27-28 and D. Overmyer, “Boatmen and Buddhas”, p. 298.
41 See Susan Naquin, “Transmission of White Lotus Sectarianism”, p. 265. Naquin estimates the
number of destroyed White Lotus scriptures between the years 1720 and 1840 at circa two thousand
books, equalling four hundred titles.
42 See L. C. Goodrich, The Literary Inquisition of Ch’ien-lung, Baltimore: Waverley 1935, p. 275.
Despite all legal stipulations, the state usually took a rather more relaxed attitude towards distributors of
such ‘seditious writings’ - at least prior to the great millenarian uprisings of the latter Qing. Cf. D.
Overmyer, Precious Volumes, pp. 229-230.
270
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
b) Chinese Christianity and the Written Word
The arrest of Father Adeodato in 1805 alerted the state to investigate the
dealings of China’s numerous Christian communities, as well as the continuing
propagation of the faith by foreign and Chinese missionaries.44 The edict ordering
Adeodato’s exile beyond the Great Wall explicitly stated the use of translated writings
for Christian proselytisation: “The books ... were originally all in Western script,
making them inaccessible to the commoners of the interior. The results of the latest
investigations have revealed that their newly printed writings are all in Chinese
characters - the intention of this fact is self-evident.”45 The ensuing condemnation
emphasised the “corrupting influence” of such materials on the minds of the Chinese
and, even more importantly, on the members of the Manchurian aristocracy. To Qing
officials, such highly venerated religious “sutras” were reminiscent of the feared
White Lotus, an umbrella term for the millenarian Buddhist movements of the late
imperial period. As with other printed examples of heresy, officials began to compile
registers of Christian writings, impounding and destroying scriptures as well as
printing blocks.46 In the official terminology used by the prosecuting state, Buddhist
and Christian liturgical objects and writings merged into one large category of
43
For a summary of popular book printing, see Evelyn Sakakida Rawski, Education and Popular
Literacy in Ch’ing China, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press 1979, pp. 111-123.
44 See the Propaganda document relating to the consequences of the Adeodato affair, archived as APF
SOCP, Indie Orientali, 1817, ff. 33-34. In the Spanish translation: El mencionado Tô-tien xí [De Tianci
, i.e. Adeodato] tubo el atrevimiento de propagar ocultamente su secta. ... Por eso se hallan
ahora muchos libros traducidos con nuestros caracteres. It continues with the rhetorical question
concerning Adeodato’s intention (Te pregunto ahora, Tô-tien xí, qué designo formaba tu corrumpido
corazòn?), to which the judge replied himself that it could only have been intended to corrupt the minds
of loyal subjects ( porqué así corrumpen las buenas costumbres de este imperio).
45 The memorial by Cao Wenzhi , Wu Mingqiu  and Liu E  is archived
at the FHA, scroll 9258, original document 493, sub-numbers 35 and 36.
46 See Susan Naquin, Millenarian Rebellion in China, pp. 19-24. The above APF document, SOCP,
Indie Orientali, 1817, folium 35, also mentions the confiscation of printed Christian materials in the
churches of the capital during the persecutions of 1805 and 1810. The official zeal to control the
dissemination of religious writings is made evident in the Po-xie xiang bian  (“Detailed
refutation of heresy”) compiled by Huang Yubian , magistrate in Zhili between 1830 to
271
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
religious “heresy”. Sacred scriptures, official investigators observed, were either
“chanted aloud” (nian ) or read quietly for “meditative fasting” (chisu xiuxing
), an observation valid for both Buddhist and Christian groups. In
popular Christianity as well as Buddhism, singing - i.e. “baojuan recitation” (xuan
juan ) - often led to a state of trance, inviting spirits into the world of the
living.47
What did the spiritual diet of the eighteenth-century Christians consist of? The
most voluminous publications were missionary works originating from early
missionary activity. A frequently copied item was the compilation of the
conversations of Julio Aleni and his fellow missionaries by the convert Li Jiubiao
,
published
between
1630
and
1640
as
the
Kouduo
richao
(“Daily record of oral exhortations”). In the year 1638 the author’s
brother Li Jiugong  published a “Mirror for the Encouragement of
Cultivation”, Lixiu yijian .48 By the close of the eighteenth century, this
Confucio-Christian masterpiece had become one of the standard texts of Chinese
Christianity, as well as a target of anti-heretical government action.49 The same goes
for the highly intellectual writings of Yang Tingyun, a “Christo-Confucian” of the
seventeenth century, who made history by introducing Christianity as a rival to
(orthodox) Buddhism to his fellow scholar officials. Despite the hostility which
subsequently arose, Yang Tingyun’s Tian-shi mingbian  - "A discourse
on the differences between Buddhism and Christianity" was still frequently cited
1842. Its sixty-eight baojuan, in six volumes, are accompanied by a condemnatory admonition not to
stray from the path of orthodoxy. See Shek, Religion and Society in Late Ming, pp. 158-160.
47 On the hymnals of the Taiping, see Rudolf G. Wagner, Reenacting the Heavenly Vision, p. 89 as well
as Shek, Religion and Society in Late Ming, pp. 200-201.
48 The Kouduo richao is referred to by Erik Zürcher in “Confucian and Christian Religiosity”, p. 13 ff.
It is also the subject of his article “The Lord of Heaven and the Demons”, pp. 357 - 375.
49 See N. Standaert, “Chinese Christian Visits to the Underworld”, p. 56.
272
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
during the closing decades of the eighteenth century. In fact, many similar titles had
reached a broad popular readership, often outside the urban centres visited by the early
missionaries and in spite of the exclusive nature of their original target audience. In
addition to the copious works by Julio Aleni and Emmanuel Diaz - such as Sanshan
lunxueji  (“Recorded sermons from the three mountains”, Tianzhu
shengjiao sizi jingwen  (“Four character hymnal on the
sacred faith in the lord of heaven”) or Tianzhu jiangsheng yanxing jixiang
“ Recorded phenomena on the words and deeds of the
Lord during his descent to the world”) - the early writings of Matteo Ricci (mostly the
Tianzhu shiyi  - “True account of the lord of heaven” and Tianzhu
jiaoyao  - “Outline of the Christian faith”) helped Christians define the
understanding of their faith. But it was in particular the shorter meditational writings
which proved intellectually accessible to the majority of Chinese Christians, such as
the Tianzhu shengjiao rike (“Daily lessons in the sacred faith”)
by
Luigi
Buglio
and
Emmanuel
Diaz
or
the
Yesu
shengti
daowen
 (“Prayers reflecting on the sacred body of Jesus” by Aleni. In
a memorial of the year 1814, for instance, two such "heretical books" (xieshu ),
attributed to the Jesuits Joseph-Anne-Marie de Moyriac de Mailla and Julio Aleni, are
described in great detail in a memorial by Ying He and He Ning .50 The
two volumes, Shengnian guangyi quanbian  (“A complete
almanac of blessings”) and Wanwu zhenyuan  (“The true origin of all
things”), had survived the destruction of the Northern Cathedral - and thus
symbolically the century of prohibition as such. Another survivor of the razed Beitang
50
The memorial of the year 1815 is filed at the FHA as scroll 9261, original document 501, subnumber 15.
273
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
cathedral are dozens of pamphlets which shed light on the “liturgical diet” supplied to
the faithful of the capital region. The Calendarium generale perpetuum Diocesis
Pekinensis compiled by Bishop Gouvea in 1788, for instance, contains 170 pages of
meditative texts, prayers and psalms for different occasions. Most of these were based
on subjects familiar to Catholics all over the Christian world, but several must have
been composed for the succour of the harassed community in Beijing, in particular the
meditations for the martyrs of the missions to Japan, India and China.51
The fate of the Beitang , Beijing’s Northern Cathedral, reflects the
changing fortunes of the capital’s Christian community itself.52 Founded in 1693, it
served a growing local community, harbouring an increasing amount of scriptural
materials, mainly used for the proselytisation of the capital’s literati elite. Following
the edict of 1724, it was decided to concentrate the holdings of all missionary libraries
in the Library of the Sacred Saviour.53 The newly stocked library included the
holdings of Beijing’s four cathedrals, of more than a dozen missionary book
collections from private collections in Beijing and from the provinces, as well as a
considerable number of titles of unclear origin. Unlike the manuscript archives, the
book collection survived the disturbances of the two centuries following its erection
without major damage.54 Its arduous journeys included a temporary refuge in a
Christian cemetery in Beijing, a sojourn in a small Lazarist parish in Inner Mongolia,
51
The Calendarium generale is part of the Beitang collection (shelf mark 2875), at present kept at the
National Library (Peking Library) without access for the general public. Queries as to the current state
of the collections should be addressed to the Chinese section of the British Library, London.
52 See Lars Peter Laamann, “The Current State of the Beitang Library”, in: Bulletin of the European
Association of Sinological Librarians, VI (September 1996), pp. 11-13.
53 Churches were usually dedicated to Christ the Saviour, whereas chapels and prayer houses for female
believers were devoted to Mary. The Beitang library hence had the official name Bibliotheca Sancti
Salvatoris. See Margiotti, Il cattolicismo nello Shansi, p. 583, note 43.
54 Regrettably the manuscript collection fell victim to a fire in 1864. Rumours concerning the existence
of a recently discovered cache of archival materials were ill-founded, as I witnessed myself in 1995.
The papers were indubitably not examples of the expected missionary correspondence, but simply handwritten filing cards for a catalogue - probably Verhaeren’s.
274
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
followed by years of administration by the Russian Orthodox mission. It was only
allowed to return to its original home once the mission had been reestablished under
the protection of the French state in the middle of the nineteenth century. The church
building then had to be reconstructed, since the original building was destroyed by fire
in 1827, during the final eruption of anti-Christian state action, which forced the local
clergy as well as the most prominent members of Beijing’s Christian life to seek
refuge in the surrounding countryside.55 Eighteenth-century official sources abound in
evidence of “seditious scrolls” circulated by Christian communities. The state was
fully aware of the edifying effect of printed materials from the capital on the morale of
Christian communities in the countryside, and was hence determined to tackle the
problem at its root. In a report from the turn of the century, we read of the public
immolation of more than one hundred Christian titles, which went on for a period of
three months.56 During the 1805 persecution in Beijing, hostile bystanders hurled
abuse and hard objects at the representatives of the Christian religion.57 By the turn of
the century, it became obvious that the churches in the capital were being used for
printing, storing and distributing printed materials. In a memorial by the State Council
of 1810, the supreme ministers appealed to the emperor to have officials enter the
missionaries’ premises, read through the entire material, calculated at 173 titles, and to
subsequently destroy all Chinese language titles, lest they be distributed to Chinese
commoners.58 From the edict issued in 1811 we know that books and woodblock
matrices stored in the houses of the Europeans were confiscated, and that the
55
The fate of the book collection - and that of the congregations of Beijing - is spelt out in a letter by
Emanuele D. Goldino, attaché of the Portuguese ecclesiastic administration of Goa, sent to Rome from
Macau in October 1806. See APF SC, series III, Cina et Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, folium 196 R.
56 See the letter by Luigi da Signa, from Shanxi province to Rome, 7 March 1806, recorded as APF SC,
“Cina and Regni Adiacenti” III (1806-1811), folium 106 V.
57 Ibidem, 107 R.
275
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
auspicious character columns alongside and over the portals were ordered to be
erased. Books were to be handed over to the authorities and all written communication
with Chinese Christians outlawed - even though the latter were likely to be illiterate.
Fearful of the effect of letters sent by the European missionaries to the Christian
communities of the provinces, a blanket ban on all missionary correspondence was
imposed.59
What the ministers regarded as politically dangerous was the “private” nature
of the Christian communities, escaping the watchful eye of the fatherly state. An
investigation into the Christian communities in Ba-xian, Sichuan, for instance, reveals
that memorising and reciting Christian writings at home - either in private or in the
company of fellow believers - was common practice.60 The oldest members of the
congregation, in their seventies, had kept copies of writings composed and donated by
European missionaries in the years preceding the Yongzheng edict of 1724. Once
having memorised these “sutras”, it was seen as the father’s duty to ensure that his
children learnt the holy words by heart, as they had been passed on to him by his own
father.61 Those who could read were given Christian tracts which would then be
studied and memorised in private. The others had to learn the sutras “from the lips of
their teacher” (kou-chuan ). When the Ba-xian Christians were questioned
about the nature of the writings, the answer was emphatic - “orthodox and beneficial,
and by no means heretical.” They were recited as a sign of filial respect, in order to
58
The edict of JQ 15 (1810) is reprinted in the “Veritable Records of the Jiaqing Emperor”, volume
(juan) 146, and cited in Zhang Ze, Qingdai jinjiaoqi de tianzhujiao, pp. 165-170.
59 See the aforementioned letter of 1 Oct. 1807 by Emmanuele Conforti to Rome from Beijing, on the
effects of the Adeodato affair, APF SC, series III, Cina & Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, folium 400 R.
60 See Ba-xian dang’anguan, part 5, section 13 (“Christianity and Heresy”), pp. 240-245: “Cases
resulting from an investigation into Christianity in Ba-xian, QL 47-48 [1782-1783]”
().
276
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
admonish each other to act as positive role models in daily life. “Christian sutras”
condemned treachery, theft, heresy and lewdness, and were furthermore instrumental
in preventing accidents and in prolonging one’s life.62 The teachers of the faith
worked without demanding any payment, and instead of congregating crowds, the
sutras were recited and taught in the circle of family and friends. Due to the popularity
of the Catholic saints (and in particular of the Virgin Mary), vitae of such pillars of the
Catholic faith were among the first European writings to be translated.63
Interestingly, the officials rarely elaborated on the contents of impounded
books and pamphlets, though these would routinely be sent as incriminating material
to the State Council.64 All memorials were in unison, however, that towards the end of
the eighteenth century hundreds of Christian titles were in circulation. This comes as
no surprise since throughout the years of repression the court missionaries were busily
printing and distributing religious materials. The Europeans who remained in Beijing
made use of their presence by composing, by now illegal, materials for what remained
of their China mission. During the 1730s, de Mailla’s well-known Shengshi churao
(“Nourishment for a prosperous age”), as well as a vita of the Christian
saints entitled Shengnian guangyi  (“Almanac of blessings”) in twenty-
61 A Japanese parallel case is analysed in Christal Whelan, “Written and Unwritten Texts of the Kakure
Kirishitan”, in Breen and Williams (eds), Japan and Christianity, pp. 126-133. For Jesuit materials
printed in Japan, see J. F. Moran, The Japanese and the Jesuits, pp. 145-160.
62
. See Ba-xian
dang’anguan, part 5, section 13, “Cases resulting from an investigation into Christianity in Ba-xian”, p.
242. Explicitly mentioned titles are: Tianzhu jiaoyao  (“Summary of the religion of the
lord of heaven”), by Matteo Ricci, SJ (1605), the Wanwu zhenyuan  (“True origin of all
things”), Bi wang  (“Fleeing evil”), Tianzhu jingshu (“The sutra of the heavenly
lord”), a Zhaozao tian, di, renwu zhenzhu  (“True lord of all creation”)
and the Jiaoyao xulun  (“Prolegomena to the essential aspects of the faith”).
63 Often cited vitae are the Tianzhu shengjiao shengren xingshi (“Lives
of the saints of the Catholic church”) and the Shengmu xingshi (“Life of the holy
mother”). See Margiotti, Il cattolecismo nello Shansi, p. 279.
64 See the memorial by Zhuang Yougong  of QL 19/5/29 (18/7/1754), filed at the FHA,
scroll 9258, original document 492, sub-number 9.
277
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
four chapters proved so popular that they had to be reprinted several times. The
shorter sequel expounding sections of the Bible (Shengjing guangyi ),
printed and distributed in the early 1740s, introduced the main tenets of Christian
doctrine - as well as the contributions of Ignatius Loyola - along the pattern of a daily
almanac. Ruijianlu (“Records of accurate reflections”), a popularised
version of the gospel, was written in the first year of the Qianlong period (1736) by
Ignace Kögler, SJ (alias Dai Jinxian ) and Xu Maode. Within a
handful of years, it had spread to remote areas over the whole of northern and central
China. In the eighth year of the Qianlong reign (1744), the Beijing Christian Yin
Hongxupublished Zhujing tiwei  (“The basic meaning of the
lord’s scriptures”), a condensed catechism in eight chapters, and also wrote Bo huijiao
 (“Refutation of Islam”), which never reached the printing blocks. Three
years later the Chinese Christian Sun Zhang , who worked for the palace
administration
as
a
translator,
published
the
tract
Xing-li
zhenquan(“True explanation of nature and principle”) expounding the
tenets of Christianity along the argumentation of Song-Ming Confucian doctrine. In
1758, unperturbed by the threat of harsh penalties, he even translated a synopsis into
Manchurian, for use by Bannermen. Shortly afterwards, the Chinese priest Shen
Dongxing authored Yijian daoyi  (“Simplified guide to the
art of praying”), widely admired for its elegant style. The year 1766 saw the
publication
of
another
booklet
for
prayer,
the
Chongxiu
jingyun
(“Essential compilation for adoration and meditation”) by the court
officials An Guoningand Lin Deyao  - a condensed version of an
original from the Yongzheng period. The latter also wrote a biography of Ignatius
Loyola
(Sheng
yinajue
),
278
the
Sheng
shaowulüe
jiuri
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
jingli(“Nine-day rite according to St Xavier”), in addition
to Zhaoyong shenjing  (“Reflections of the eternal sacred mirror”). Five
years later, in 1771, the court official Florian Bahr, SJ (Wei Jijin) wrote his
Shengyong xujie (“Sequel to the holy hymns”), plus a vita of St John
Nepomuk (Sheng ruowang niebomu zhuan), published prior
to his death in the same year. Other publications from the end of the Qianlong period
include a synopsis of the Old and New Testaments, Gu-xin shengjing ,
by Louis de Poirot, SJ (He Qingtai ), as well as titles which no longer
survive but are nevertheless mentioned in memorials, such as these three titles found
in the private collection of a Cantonese Christian in the year 1784: Zhu sumi
pian(“Illuminating
coarse
superstitions”),
Chuhui
dawen
(“A first catechism” - but probably the Chuhui wenda by
Pedro de la Piñuela65), and Yi ping(“Righteousness comprehended”).66 When
the numbers of Christian intellectuals and foreign priests began to diminish towards
the end of the century of prohibition, ordinary Chinese Christians stepped in, by
copying earlier writings and by distributing these to the Christian of the surrounding
countryside. When, for instance, state interrogators extracted the confessions of the
Tongbo Christians of Henan province, the officials found out that the itinerant
On the work of Pedro de la Piñuela (alias Shiduolu zhenduo  1655-1704, in
China from 1676 to his death), see Antonio Sisto Rosso, “Pedro de Piñuela, OFM, Mexican Missionary
to China and Author”, Franciscan Studies VIII-3 (1948), p. 263 ff.
66 The article by Adrianus C. Dudink, “The Zikawei () Collection in the Jesuit Theologate
Library at Fujen  University (Taiwan): Background and Draft Catalogue”, in: Sino-Western
Cultural Relations Journal XVIII (1996), pp. 1-40 provides insight into the abundance of translations
and compositions by European missionaries, mostly originating from the seventeenth and early
eighteenth centuries. The Bibliotheca Missionum makes reference to some of the titles listed above.
Unfortunately, exhaustive information on many other eighteenth-century publications remains elusive.
All titles used for this chapter are listed separately in Appendix 6.
65
279
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
Christian Yuan Huzi  - “Bearded Yuan” - had supplied the local Christians
with writings from the capital. The resulting interest produced eighteen converts.67
By the second decade of the nineteenth century, the links with the thriving
Christian exclaves of Xiwanzi and Anjiazhuang preserved Beijing’s embattled
Christians as members of a wider religious movement, which had learnt to rely on the
almost exclusive spiritual and practical guidance of half a dozen Chinese priests.68 If
the movement of people could not be controlled, the supervision of printed materials
proved even less feasible. This was particularly true for texts - or textual fragments other than printed volumes (“sutras”), including pictorial motives, auspicious
emblems, portal character columns, but most of all short religious tracts, passages
from the Bible or meditative texts.69 From the confessions of the Christian elder Wang
Xiangsheng we learn that there was a custom in his village of passing cards with the
names of Christian neighbours to other Christians, so that they could “pray for their
salvation while chanting the sutras” (nianjing chaodu ).70 Otherwise,
there was no need for any name registers, because the homes of Christians could quite
easily be identified from the street: Instead of the traditional protective scrolls
adorning the door posts, a simple cross was affixed to the door. Furthermore, the
Christians in the Suizhou area used “piety lists” (xiaodan ) during the recital of
67
The case is detailed on page 159 ff. of this thesis.
In addition to Xie Madou and John-Chrysostom Kho (Chinese name unknown) there were four
secular priests. These six priests were strengthened by successive visits by Mouly (1835-1842), Joseph
Gabet (1837-1842), Evarist Huc (1841-1842), Florent Daguin (1843) and Joseph Carayon (1843). See
Souvenirs of a Journey, volume I, p. 39.
69 The Chinese priest Matthew Kou rendered pamphlets on the purgatory and on the Ten
Commandments into colloquial Chinese. See Léonide Guiot, La Mission du Su-tchuen au XVIIIme
siècle, pp. 232-233. FHA scroll 9261, document 501, sub-numbers 16 and 17 refers to the discovery in
1807 of “privately printed sutras and pictures, talismans and books” () in the Christian
village of Sanggu in Wanping District, Shuntian Prefecture ().
70

(ibidem)
68
280
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
Christian scriptures.71 Two unnamed “sutras” (jingjuan) were discovered in the
home of Wang Xiangsheng. Both volumes, the memorial points out, were “handwritten” (moxie ), i.e. not printed. Investigations in other households produced
a variety of titles, including early missionary translations by Matteo Ricci and Michele
Ruggieri, in addition to “fasting manuals” and “rosaries” (zhaidan  and suzhu
, respectively - both Buddhist terms), as well as ritual texts, such as the Ten
Commandments. Several of the scriptures are commented on as being “worn” (canque
), which indicates their age and use.72
One example of pamphlets composed by Christians from memory comes from
the hamlet Longmentan , near Chongqing in Sichuan province.73 The
pamphlets mentioned are a Tianzhu jing  (“Scripture of the lord of
heaven”), Shengmujing (“Scripture of the holy mother”), Xinjing
(“Scripture
of
faith”),
as
well
as
a
Chuzao
tiandi
jiangben
(“Commentary on the creation”). We owe knowledge of these
titles to the apostate He Guoda, a seasonal worker employed as a cotton harvester by
Christian landowners in Sichuan province. Having been initiated into the basic
principles of their faith by local Christians, He Guoda declared that he had only
learned the beginning of each of the Christian scriptures by heart and, being illiterate,
71Maybe
illustrated
spiritual
instructions.
(ibidem).
72 See Margiotti, Il cattolecismo nello Shansi, pp. 277-281.
73 See FHA, scroll 9258, original document 492, numbers 19-20. The memorial is dated QL 39/4/12
(i.e. 21/5/1774). The vernacular of the original underlines the limited knowledge of the apostate:


≡÷




281
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
that he merely knew of these writings what the Christians had disclosed by word of
mouth. Of the Tianzhujing we learn that
in an ode entitled ‘Our Heaven’, among others, it is mentioned that one
will suddenly see the truth, one’s true body-and-soul will be sanctified,
one’s wisdom will become like that of an emperor, able to behold the
infinite cosmos. I am waiting for you [sinners] now to put your guilt on
me, so that you will not have anything any more to be desired. I shall show
my mercy and take away your bad luck, your nightmares.
The Shengmujing seems to be a translation of the Ave Maria:
Er-fu Holy Ma-li-ya, fulfilled among the holy. The Lord has bestowed
you with Righteousness, and has liberated you from your legion of grief.
And despite having despatched you for only a brief time, you will soon be
with the Lord of Heaven forever. Holy Ma-li-ya, when you ascend to
Heaven, turn towards me .....
The Xinjing is nothing less than the Credo. In the simplified version
reproduced by He Guoda, it runs like this: “I believe in the all-capable Lord of
Heaven, who sent his extraordinary son down [to earth] with the sacred seal.” The
brief account of the Chuzao tiandi jiangben seems like the abridged version of the
introduction to the Genesis:
In the beginning of the creation of Heaven and earth, all human beings were
created by the Lord of Heaven, and the same Lord of Heaven created the
multitude of humanity.
282
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
These printed fragments of the Christian faith were memorised by a manual
labourer, with a self-professed interest in “black magic”. Aided by apostates and
Christians on the margins of their congregations, other religious movements also
made use of such textual fragments - usually isolated and out of context - borrowing
ideas, images and terminology from their Christian rivals for their own incantations.
Early nineteenth century reports by missionary visitors confirm that this was indeed
common practice.74
Christianity, with its plethora of religious writings, seemed as puzzling to the
investigating officials as the other popular sects which made use of printed materials.
The fact that most villagers had difficulties deciphering the characters of the title
pages alone should not lead us to underestimate their value. Printed scriptures on the
contrary added to the range of iconographic objects which made Christianity a truly
popular religion at a rural level. During the eighteenth century, the chanting of
Christian scriptures took place in a religious territory which was largely in flux: Either
ignored or classified as “heretical” by the guardians of Confucian orthodoxy,
Christianity developed from a recognisably foreign implant to a genuine expression of
popular religious life. The alien origins of Chinese Christianity, however, bestowed a
mysterious aura exerting an exotic appeal on the rural audience. The state’s
increasingly condemnatory verdict of Christianity at the beginning of the nineteenth
century can be explained by two developments. Firstly, the process of Christianity’s
74
Cf. B. Willeke, “The Report of the Apostolic Visitation”, p. 258: The relevant chapter is entitled “On
abuses among the faithful and rites introduced to the people....” (“De abusibus circa fidem et ritus
inventis in populo ...”). One ominous sentence reads: “Errors and harmful interpretations concerning the
Holy Faith introduced into the population have been dispelled, superstitious thought erased from the
minds of the people, [to the extent that] no more abuse and sacrilegious deed is to be seen” (Inducti
errores in populo pravaeque opiniones circa sancta fidei dogmata dispellantur, vigentes superstitiones
283
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inculturation had rendered the religion highly accessible to the followers of other
“dangerous” religious movements, and secondly, the numbers of foreigners
penetrating ever deeper into the empire increased drastically at the beginning of the
century. Alarmed by the encroachment of southern Asia by Europe’s colonial powers,
the Qing administration now saw China’s Christians as a potential threat to the state.
Missionary activity during the nineteenth century would differ sharply from the first
period of the China mission: Again, rural communities were targeted through the use
of pictures, vernacular style and easily recognisable metaphors. Printed on modern
printing presses with movable metal types, the quantity of printed materials could be
increased whereas the price of printed items was brought down to more affordable
levels. Both developments, modern missions and modern printing, thus marked a clear
end of the “Christian sutras” which had come to characterise Chinese Christianity
during the long century of missionary prohibition. Both developments will be analysed
separately in the following two chapters.
Chapter 9:
Christianity as internal menace
1. Between social control and official paranoia
ex hominum mente penitus auferantur, nullus amplius abusus, nulla sacramentorum profanatio
imposterum perspiciatur). Caveat lector!
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Attempts by imperial administrations to curb undesired religious developments
can be traced to the reign of the Tang Taizong emperor, who in the year 632 decreed
that Buddhist monks and nuns, as well as Daoist hermits, were under obligation to
venerate their parents. One thousand years later, officials also resorted to anti-heresy
legislation in order to put pressure on religious movements. The legal basis for
government action against secret societies was provided by the “Legal Examples for
Purifying Evil” (Qingbi leichao, section ‘Societies and Gangs’,
Huidanglei ), the “Legal Statutes of the Qing Empire” (Daqing huidian
, chapter 194: ‘Penal Law - Treacherous Congregations’), as well as the
“Qing Codex” (Daqing lüli ), in a section devoted to the suppression of
witchcraft and sorcery (jinzhi shi-wu xieshu ).1 These were
complemented by specific decrees issued during the Kangxi, Yongzheng and
Qianlong periods.2 In the second year of his reign (1724), for instance, the Yongzheng
emperor decreed decisive government action against all activities regarded as morally
corrupting and subversive. Despite his private Buddhist sympathies, the Yongzheng
emperor expressed concern over the tendency, particularly among rural girls, to
“become religious out of the sweetness of their hearts” (gan xin ru jiao
). The same phenomenon could be detected in young women who had
1 See Ma Zhao, “Shilun Qianlong shiqi (1736-1796) chajin tianzhujiao shijian”, p. 42. The section is
contained in the chapter for rituals and laws pursuant to sacrifice and prayer
()
and
stipulates that “all wizards and sorcerers pretending to call down pernicious spirits, write talismans or
curse waters, who pretend to pray to sacred forces, ..., who are accountable for perverted crafts and
heresy, or those who secretly harbour icons and statues, who light incense to attract the crowds, who
congregate from dusk till dawn, who feign to be engaged in virtuous pursuits, who incite and confuse
the populace, their leaders are to be strangled or to be put in gaol, their followers are to receive one
hundred
beatings
with
the
cane
or
to
be
exiled
three
thousand
li.
(


)
285
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
converted to Christianity. Though it was often economic hardship that induced
Buddhist and Christian women to enter organised convents or houses inhabited by
like-minded women, the concerned state feared for the moral order of society, urging
young women not to withdraw from the world but to pursue the proper Confucian role
of wife and mother.3 History had taught the [male] officials that if women did not
devote themselves fully to their traditional roles as maids, wives and mothers the
worst had to be expected. Through quiet domestic influence they would instil heretical
thoughts into the minds of their menfolk and children.4 Female leaders could - as
impersonators of the Eternal Mother - add to the allure of millenarian movements.5
Under extreme circumstances, women - once they had forsaken their place in family
and society - could even transform themselves into battalions of amazon warriors - as
witnessed in the White Lotus rebellions of 1796.6
“Instilling poisonous thoughts into innocent folk”()
and “confusing the world, bewitching the people” () were standard
accusations against heterodox religious movements. Imperial injunctions also
condemned orthodox religion for encouraging anti-social acts such as monasticism.7
“Vacuous talking” (xutan ) about transmigration (lunhui ), hell (diyu
See Qin Baoqi , Hongmen zhenshi (“A True Account of the Heaven and
Earth Society”), Fuzhou: Fujian People’s Press1995, pp. 14-16.
3 See FHA, “Palace Memorials Approved by the Emperor’s Hand” (zhupi zouzhe ),
category ‘Religious Affairs’ (zongjiao shiwulei) , document number 9. On the
phenomenon of the “Christian virgins”, see above, p. 151 ff.
4 A view held by the veteran official Na Yancheng, commenting on the role of women during the Eight
Trigrams uprising of 1813. Cf. de Groot, Sectarianism and Religious Persecution, p. 451.
5 Such as the charismatic mother-figure Third Daughter Wu (Wu san-niang ) during the
Wang Lun uprising of 1774. See S. Naquin, Shantung Rebellion, pp. 82-85.
6 In this case, led by the wife of the (male) rebel leader Wang Qilin . For more information
on these “Amazon-Bandits” (qima nüzei ), see de Groot, Sectarianism and Religious
Persecution, p. 360, as well as Erhard Rosner, “Frauen als Anführerinnen chinesischer Sekten”, in: Gert
Naundorf, Karl-Heinz Pohl and Hans-Hermann Schmidt (eds), Religion und Philosophie in Ostasien Festschrift für Hans Steiniger zum 65. Geburtstag, Würzburg: Königshausen and Neumann 1985, pp.
239-246.
2
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) and retribution (baoying ) as well as confusion of the “natural order”
of day and night (bufen zhouye ) led to seditious sectarianism (lidang
jiemeng, ni yu dayi ). In the eyes of the state officials,
popular Christianity was deeply involved in such socially destabilising activities. In
the campaign against local Christianity, the official Ying Shan explicitly stated
the implication of Christianity for the “treacherous heresy” of popular movements in
the early nineteenth century: Commoners who for religious reasons, transgressed the
baojia regulations, practised heretical rites and followed Western teachings were to be
treated as rebels ().8 Regardless of the spiritual convictions of
the offenders, the mere fact of weakening the fabric of local society had to be seen as a
menace to its security - in a moral as well as a physical sense.
Vocally expressed by Ying Shan towards the close of the mid-Qing period,
government action against popular Christianity can be traced back to the beginning of
the century of repression. The “Yongzheng edict” of 1724 against Christian
missionary activity should hence be seen as part of a comprehensive effort to stem the
rise of “uncontrollable” religious movements. In the missionary correspondence of the
early eighteenth century, complaints about unjustified persecutions were voiced, such
as in the description of the persecution which took place in the locality of Zing Ceu in
Shandong province in the year 1714.9 The Christian villagers stood accused of
belonging to a heretical sect, of amassing more than three thousand followers in order
to proselytise among ordinary farmers. The crucial element of the accusation was that
7
Reflected in the popular saying “If one son leaves the material world, the entire clan will ascend to
heaven” (yizi chusu, jiuzu shengtian ).
8Cf. FHA, scroll 9258, original document 501, sub-number 12, entitled “Concerning the trial against the
Christian Zhao Heng” ().
9 Qingzhou in Shandong province, according to Dr Tiedemann.
287
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they threatened to “undermine public order”, thus destabilising the society whose
pacification the Qing had only just achieved.10
From the latter half of the Kangxi period onwards there is evidence of a
proliferation of underground societies. Though non-clan brotherhoods had already
been widespread during the Ming period (reflected, for Liangshanbo in Shandong, in
the novel Water Margin ), the first half of the Qing witnessed their
transition to a new force in late imperial history. The political changes of the
Manchurian conquest fostered local opposition, which expressed itself through the
formation of close-knit, localised secret brotherhoods defying the new rulers. From the
beginning of the Yongzheng period, these societies started to adopt secret names for
their members, and began to contact neighbouring groups sympathetic to their aims. In
the northern Han areas, secret religious societies were concentrated in a belt
comprising Henan, Shandong and Zhili.11 A “southern belt” linking Jiangxi, Fujian
(including the island of Taiwan), Guangdong with the minority areas in Guangxi and
Yunnan, also existed, i.e. in the very regions where anti-Manchu forces had held out
longest. Keeping the volatile blend of China’s different ethnic and religious groups
together added to the magistrates’ burden.12 As these “underground societies” were
often implicated in anti-government violence, the Yongzheng ruler issued warnings to
local magistrates to “curb treason and end heresy” (jiejian zhixie).13 The
reported arrest of the Luojiao propagator Han Derong  of Dingxiang
County in Shanxi Province may serve as an example. The source cites all the
10 See BAV Lat. Vat. 12849, Brevis narratio itineris ex Italia usq.ad Chinam, [etc.] for contemporary
missionary views confirming this observation.
11 The very “macro-regions” where most of the archival materials used for this thesis originate from.
12 Nowhere more so than in newly-colonised territories such as Taiwan. See the memorial on the
Huangjiao rebellion, reprinted in Shiliao xunkan , part “Heaven” , volume 11, pp.
365-372, volume 16, pp. 539-544 and 567-568.
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usual characteristics of popular religious movements: Setting up shrines for worship at
home (jiayou kaitang ), statues of idols (shenxiang ), the
burning of incense (shaoxiang ), Buddha worship through the reciting of
sutras (nianjing baifo ) and the abstention from “unclean” food (buchi
wuhun ).14 But crucially, the report also states contacts between Han
Derong’s own cult and other religious movements - firstly with the White Lotus, then
also with Catholicism. It names the culprit as an “intruder with criminal thoughts”
(wailai sifeifan ), accused of establishing a heretical sect (changli
xiejiao ). The combination of “heretical” ideas and the uncontrolled
movement of subjects in the different regions of the empire had to be treated with
utmost concern, even if there was no direct evidence of seditious activities.15 In many
cases, perceived similarities between Christians and other religious movements relating to their organisational structure, initiation rites and nomenclature - led to
undiscerning persecution16. In addition to its concern about popular cults, unrest
among the Muslim population of the western areas put the state on the defensive even
against established religion. During the insurrection of 1781 in Lanzhou, the rebels
vowed to replace the rule of the Qing by autochtonous institutions authorised by
Koranic precepts. The involvement of Muslims in this and in later uprisings troubled
the otherwise harmonious relationship between the Qing and the approved religious
institutions of Islam, and affected the attitude towards Muslims in the empire as
13
See Qin Baoqi, Zhongguo dixia shehui, pp. 119-121.
“Reciting sutras, burning incense, abstaining from meat” (nianjing , shaoxiang ,
shizhai ) can be regarded as the “mantra” employed by officials in their description of
(suspected) millenarian movements. See S. Naquin, Shantung Rebellion, p. 52, for an official
characterisation of the Pure Water sect (Qingshuijiao).
15 Reprinted in Shiliao xunkan , category ‘Earth’ ( 13/3/10), volume 30, pp. 98-101.
Han Derong is cited by de Groot as being the founder of the Shouyuan  sect, an offshoot of the
Luo sect. See de Groot, Sectarianism and Religious Persecution, pp. 285-286 and 507.
14
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such.17 During the eighteenth century, Christians were frequently accused of
collaborating with Muslim insurgents - a claim supported by the similarities between
both monotheistic faiths.18
By retaliating against members of secret societies with the standard
punishment for ordinary criminals (usually by applying one hundred blows with the
bamboo cane), the state reacted by criminalising the symptoms of a crisis originating
in the deteriorating socio-economic conditions of the eighteenth century. A rapid
commercialisation of crops in extensive parts of the Han settlement area replaced the
traditional pattern of subsistence-based agriculture with plantations of sugar, tea,
tobacco and fruit. Coupled with the destruction caused by the quelling of earlier
insurrections, and with the explosive growth of the overall population, the average
farming area per person fell from 17.11 mu to 1.71 mu between the 1650s and the
1780s. Part of the unemployed population could be absorbed by labouring as
permanent farmhands and casual workers. Others, who decided to stay behind in their
rural homeland, relied increasingly on the benevolence of the skies and on the
efficiency of official disaster relief.19 But a large proportion migrated to the cities,
where they tried to make a living as peddlers, labourers, canal workers, or simply as
16 See Ma Zhao, Shilun Qianlong shiqi (1736-1796) chajin tianzhujiao shijian, pp. 24-29 for a
discussion of similarities between Christian and other religious movements during the Qianlong period.
17
Cf.
Bai
Shouyi,
Bai
shouyi
minzu
zongjiao
lunwenji
(“Essays on Ethnicity and Religion by Bai Shouyi”), Beijing:
Beijing Normal University1 992, pp. 379-382, and Hu Zhenhua ,
Zhongguo huizu (“China’s Hui Nationality”), Yinchuan: Ningxia People’s Press
1993, pp. 1-8. An interesting example of nineteenth century anti-Islamic
Han nationalism can be found in the writings of Lu Yao, who argued for systematic
intermarriage between the two communities, in order to eradicate all “features” peculiar to the Muslim
Hui. See Huangchao jingshi wenbianvolume 69: ‘Rites concerning
Government’ (lizheng ), ff. 31-33.
18 See B. Willeke, Imperial Government and Catholic Missions, pp. 46-49: “Similarities of
Mohammedanism and Christianity in Chinese Eyes”.
19 See P.-E. Will, Bureaucratie et famine, pp. 117-134.
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beggars, prostitutes, actors and other “unstable elements”.20 With crime the order of
the day, and old family ties quickly fading in relevance, the secret brotherhoods
provided the organisational and emotional support the migrants had left behind in
their native villages.21 In so doing, they followed the experience observable in migrant
communities around the world, in developing fervent religious beliefs pertinent to
their new community.22 For the year 1736, the last of the Yongzheng period, it is
reported that
in the upper reaches of the Yangtse River there is a group of idle rascals,
who gather the crowds into organised gangs in order to commit atrocious
crimes. There are gangs of all shades and affiliations, such as the
Searching the Flower and Big Sword gangs in Suzhou, the Five Sacred
Mountains bandits in Shouzhou, the Exulting Heaven sect of Dingyuan
County, the Three Vehicles sect of Nanling County ... and in every market
place organised gangs of evil intent have disrupted the lives of the honest
people. If we do not act in all severity, we fear that these gangs will
multiply by the day, and corrupt the people’s hearts beyond repair. Hence
we recommend [their leaders] be caned to death ....23
Outlawed by the state, secret organisations of all hues and shades colluded
against manifestations of the government, attracting the interest of disgruntled
20
See Zhou Yumin and Shao Yong, Zhongguo huibang shi, pp. 31-41 on the importance of canal
workers for the formation of the Luo sect, and of the later Green Gangs (Qingbang ) of the
Lower Yangtse. The same topic is analysed in Daniel Overmyer in “Boatmen and Buddhas”, pp. 284302 as well as by David Kelley, in: “Temples and Tribute Fleets”, p. 361 ff.
21 Expressed in the Chinese saying “Transforming the differences in order to become one kith and kin”
(hua yixing wei tongxing ). For more details on the history of mass migration,
see Qin Baoqi, Hongmen zhenshi, pp. 17-33. See also Ho, Studies on the Population of China,
(passim).
22 See Bryna Goodman, Native Place, City and Nation: Regional Networks and Identities in Shanghai,
1853-1937, Berkeley: University of California Press 1995.
23 Shiliao xunkan ,section ‘Heaven’ , volume 1, pp. 32-33. The memorial is entitled:
“Memorial by Zhao Hong’en and Zhao Guolin  requesting an end to the
spreading of heretical sectarianism” (). In the original
wording
of
the
memorial:


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members of the local establishment.24 Official action against religious organisations of
popular, heterodox extraction can thus be explained as a heavy-handed attempt by the
imperial administration to counter any perceived threat to its authority.25 Popular
Christianity shared several of the characteristics of such sectarian movements popular
with China’s “floating population”. In many regions of the Qing empire, young men in
search of employment were as likely to encounter Christian centres of activity as they
were to discover millenarian Buddhist centres. The fleeting nature of the lives of
migrant workers during this period is illustrated in a brief series of legal documents
from 1774, dealing with the case of He Guoda 26
 Following an invitation by
his neighbours, Mr He decided to leave his native Jiangxi (Nankang District in
Nan’an-fu t o seek a better life as a hired hand in Sichuan.27 At the time of
his decision, in 1769, he was 31 years of age - though we learn nothing of a potential
family or spouse. After a journey of two months, the migrants arrived in the
Sichuanese metropolis of Chongqing. There, fifteen kilometres outside the walls of
Jiangjin district, in a little place known as Longmentan, He Guoda
found paid employment fluffing up cotton buds. After eighty days, he was involved in
an incident where he was accused by fellow villagers of having stolen money. Fearing


24 The theme of (social) justice had already occupied a prominent role in the popular religious
discourse during the unsettled decades of the late Ming. Contemporary shanshu - such as the
“Complete Work of Moral Exhortations” (Quanjie quanshu ) by Chen Zhixi
 - stressed the moral obligation of the elite to donate to the poor and to rule over their
subjects with benevolence. See R. H. C. Shek, “Religion and Society”, pp. 136, 138-142 and 160. See
in particular the passage from the Quanjie quanshu translated on p. 142, promising material reward to
true altruists. Though separated by more than three generations from the late Ming turmoil, such texts and the principles behind them - must have exerted a continuing appeal to the moral conscience of the
mid-Qing elite.
25 For a detailed enumeration of anti-government activities by secret societies during the Yongzheng
and Jiaqing reign periods, cf. Qin Baoqi, Hongmen zhenshi, pp. 14 ff. and 86-93.
26 This memorial is by now a familiar feature to the reader: FHA, scroll 9258, original document 492,
sub-numbers 19-20, frames 339-344, dated QL 39/4/12 (i.e. 21/5/1774).
27 See Ho, Studies on the Population of China, pp. 139-143 for general observations on migration to
Sichuan during the Qing period.
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reprisals from his peers and from the district officials, He Guoda cut his plait - to
indicate that he was now a fugitive, and therefore in desperate need of help - and
revealed himself to his employer, Xie Defu .28 Under the influence of his
maternal uncle he was urged to convert to Christianity, and made to memorise
Christian scriptures under the tutelage of various Christians from the locality. He
Guoda commented that Christian teachings were clearly “heretical” (jiaofa buzheng
), for a variety of reasons:
Women and men mingle freely in the meetings, while during the
chanting of the scriptures men are placed at the front of the hall, the
women behind. The girls belonging to this sect are not allowed to marry
outsiders. Converts are offered money in order to marry [Christian] girls
.... In the mornings and evenings they make the sign of the cross with their
hands, while chanting hymns. They use secret symbols and propitious
characters.29
A foreign missionary, based at the neighbouring locality of Shengzhongping
, had also been spotted by him in Longmentan.30 The total number of
Christian families was put at twelve by He Guoda, neatly enumerating the names of
the family heads. When he made his intention clear that he did not wish to remain a
Christian, but had only been interested in the magical elements of the belief, the
migrant was asked to repay his hosts for the cost of boarding. He later insisted on his
28
De Groot reports that the White Lotus insurgents of 1799 used similar methods to prevent followers
from defecting to the government. Cf. de Groot, Sectarianism and Religious Persecution, p. 362.
29

S
 ee the above memorial, FHA, scroll 9258, original
document 492, numbers 19-20, frame 340.
30 Sichuan had always provided a more hospitable environment for foreign missionaries than the
provinces of the northern interior. A letter sent to the Propaganda offices in 1815 provides a detailed
list of clerics who were active in the province during the last few decades of the eighteenth century and
at the beginning of the new century. The list also includes a Matthew Lo, native to the province, who
had received his spiritual training at the Catholic college in Pondicherry, in southern India. Cf. APF
SOCP, Indie Orientali, 1817, folium 16.
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innocence, by repeating the fact that he had only had a weak grasp of the scriptures he
had been taught, and that he was furthermore unable to read or write.
He Guoda’s reference to the “mingling the sexes” (nannü hunxiao
) may serve as a further example of the official perception of popular
Christianity as a morally corrupting cult.31 Confucian morality drew on ancient
customs of sexual segregation, stipulated in the classical writings at the heart of early
Qing orthodoxy, for instance the Book of Rites.32 Millenarian movements made use of
magical powers thought to be emanating from uncontrolled female sexuality.33
Already two generations earlier, officials had commented on the detrimental influence
of Christianity on socio-moral conventions. Matteo Ripa reported in his diary of the
diatribes of the senior official Fan Shaozuo  against the practice of
“congregating at night-time in order to disperse in the morning” (ye ju, ming san
), of “mingling chaotically under the same roof” (nan-nü hunza
tongtang ).34 The European missionaries of the early eighteenth
century attempted to quell such rumours by trying to segregate their converts into
exclusively male and female quarters, with the latter kept out of public view, to suit
the mores of the time. The fact that (male) missionaries regularly spent long hours in
these female oratories (nühui ) in order to plant the seed of their faith in rural
31
An accusation also lodged against Buddhist movements, such as the Xiantian and Longhua cults. See
de Groot, Sectarianism and Religious Persecution, p. 192.
32 See Liu Dianjue  and Chen Fangzheng , Liji zhuzi suoyin
, Hong Kong: Shangwu yinshuguan 1993, chapter 19 (“Leji
”), p. 100: “If male and female is not segregated, then chaos will arise”
().
33 See S. Naquin, Shantung Rebellion, pp. 198-199, note 69.
34 Cf. the letter by Carlo da Castorano to Matteo Ripa in Michele Fatica (ed.), Matteo Ripa, Giornale
(1705-1724), Vol. II (1711-1716), pp. 340-343.
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China, gave rise to suspicion and jealousy.35 Considering that the customs of the midQing period dictated that women be confined to the inner quarters of their dwellings,
and - if at all necessary - used the opposite side of the street when a man happened to
approach, the allegation of “sharing the same roof” reeked indeed of illicit sexual
adventures.36 Not all Christians approved of this infringement of contemporary norms.
John Hu, whilst on a visit to Paris in the 1720s, admonished bypassing couples to
segregate, brandishing a flag with the characters “Men and women should remain
separate” (nan-nü fen-bie ).37 While the allegation may merely refer to
the custom of granting women the position of strong equals within sectarian
movements, it also corresponds to the well-known suspicion against Buddhist clerics and was presumably not completely unfounded. Women yearning for children often
took their supplications to their local deities. Would it be inconceivable that some
sought the necessary biological contribution, which they could not obtain from their
husbands, from Buddhist and Christian priests instead?38A rare document illustrating
that this phenomenon was not unknown in Christian circles is preserved in the
Propaganda Fide archives. We hear excerpts of the confessions of the Chinese priest
Paulus Van to his superiors on 29 July 1806:
When I took the confessions of four women in the town Cing cu hien, I
included some obscene words in my advice. After the confession had
come to an end, I copulated with them, and afterwards I imposed some
35
See the admonitions concerning correct missionary techniques by Giuseppe Cerù, preserved at the
Propaganda archives as document SOCP, Indie Orientali, 1723-1725, ff. 21/22.
36 See the - meanwhile not uncontroversial - observations by Robert Gulik, Sexual Life in Ancient
China, Leiden: E. J. Brill 1961, pp. 207 and 247.
37 See J. Spence, The Question of Hu, p. 84.
38 Examples of sexual deviations by Buddhist monks are quoted in Philip A. Kuhn, Soulstealers,
passim. Readers are also reminded that the main character of the erotic novel Roupu tuan  is
a Buddhist novice, ever-ready to explore the arts of the bedchamber. See Li Yu (1611-1680[?]
and Patrick Hanan, transl.), The Carnal Prayer Mat [Roupu tuan , 1657 edition], London:
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penances and absolved the women. [...] One of the women approached me
some days later to be granted confession ..., and I sinned with her in the
same manner, but again I absolved her. ... I prostrate myself to your feet,
Excellency, having committed the gravest and most horrendous sins, ... I,
the most worthless servant, Priest Paulus Van.39
Such misdemeanour may certainly have been restricted to individuals. They
were nevertheless damaging to the reputation of Christianity, since they emphasised
the general impression that “monks” were not to be trusted - a potentially serious
problem for Catholicism.40 Furthermore, as the guardian of stability in the empire, the
Confucian state regarded it as its duty to scrutinise and legislate against any
movements posing a threat to moral integrity and social stability. Popular Christianity
thus found itself included in the philosophical matrix which was applied to analyse the
nature of popular movements in general. In this context, the perception of Christianity
by the prosecuting officials was akin to that of popular Buddhism, i.e. at the lower end
of morality. Evidence of lewd priests and freely mingling adolescents did little to
adjust the balance to a more favourable position.
2. Poverty and Persecution
The tightening of the state’s tolerance towards Christianity cannot be divorced
from the popular movements menacing the Qing during the eighteenth century mainly the spectre of the “White Lotus” (bailian ). Used as an umbrella term
Arrow Books 1990, chapters 2 (discourse between libertine and the young monk) and 20 (regret and
final redemption).
39 The original letter was composed in Latin, and is kept at the Propaganda archives as SC, series III,
Cina e Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, folia 140 R/V and 142 R. It is addressed to all his superiors in the
Shanxi church, and indirectly to Rome, and begins with the caption “Ego infrascriptus sacerdos
maximus peccator contra sanctitatem et excellentiam sacramentorum” - “I, the undersigning priest, am
the worst sinner against the holiness and excellence of the sacraments”. The full text can be found in
Appendix 2.
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applied to the diverse manifestations of millenarian Buddhism during the Ming-Qing
period, “White Lotus” and similar millenarian movements attracted a substantial
following from among the less privileged sections of the peasant population.41
Perpetual deprivation, intensified by natural catastrophes and bad harvests facilitated
the belief that the human world was nearing its end. Followers believed that the world
was about to proceed from the second to its third kalpa - an event of cosmic
dimensions which would take the world through a series of cataclysms, shattering the
earth and all earthly powers.42 In order to hasten the coming of the new world, and the
destruction of the old order (mojie ), the ruling dynasty was identified as the
main target for military annihilation. With the Maitreya Buddha and the Eternal
Venerable Mother (wusheng laomu)43 at one’s side, who would not
emerge victorious? Even if attack implied suicide, the certainty of reward beyond the
confines of the present life guaranteed an army of peasant soldiers ready to fight the
Banner troops of the Qing.44 The Eight Trigrams uprising of 1813, which threatened
the ruling dynasty at its centre, attracted poor peasants from the border areas of the
40
See Philip A. Kuhn, Soulstealers, pp. 105-107 and 115.
Susan Naquin argues that - at least in the context of the Wang Lun uprising of 1774 - the majority of
participating peasants may not have been rich, but were as unlikely to have suffered from acute
starvation. See S. Naquin, Shantung Rebellion, pp. 50-52.
42 The arrival of the Maitreya Buddha would herald the beginning of the third, so-called White Yang
kalpa (baiyang jie ). This future event was referred to as the “turning of the kalpa” (yunjie
). For a detailed analysis of the role of kalpas in popular religiosity, see S. Naquin, Shantung
Rebellion, pp. 52-59.
43 On the concept of “non-birth” (wusheng , Sanskrit: anutpanna / anutpada), see Bernard
Faure, “Relics and Flesh Bodies: The Creation of Chan Pilgrimage Sites”, in: Susan Naquin and Chüfang Yü (eds), Pilgrims and Sacred Sites, p. 160. In essence, “non-birth” in Mahayana (and Chan)
thought is equivalent to “emptiness”. In an ultimately empty space, all phenomena are non-existent
illusions - “flowers in the sky”.
44 In the words of Susan Naquin: “... believer and rebel [were] merely different phases of the same
salvational process.” See her Millenarian Rebellion in China, p. 3.
41
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Huguang, Shaanxi and neighbouring areas - the same poor, mountainous border areas
which during the same period formed the home base for China’s rural Christianity.45
The poverty of these mountain areas is well documented in the missionary
correspondence. A report sent to Europe by Antonio Luigi da Signa spells out the
reason for the material deprivation experienced in the Shanxi / Shaanxi region. Luigi
da Signa quotes “the impossible pressure caused by the land tenure contracts”, which
reduced the Christian peasantry to a state of doubt (“Why is God not responding to our
prayers?”) and intimidation, caused by rumours of the imperial prohibition of
Christianity. The solution suggested by the visiting da Signa envisaged the
construction of a hospital (sanatorio), financed in part by money transferred from the
Vatican, where the local faithful could be looked after for free.46
Poverty, on the other hand, could also be regarded as a factor facilitating
adherence to the Christian faith. Possibly thinking of the parable of the needle's eye,
M. de S. Goldino, Bishop of Macau, praised the steadfast position of the Christian
peasantry.47 “At night-time”, Goldino quotes Christian villagers who had been forced
to flee from a local persecution, “we cry silently in the moon light because of our
misfortune. We are sinful and poor, but content at the thought of being able to observe
God’s commandments unto our death, regardless of our poverty.”48 Devotion to their
religion was, of course, also a feature shared by the impoverished members of other
45
The uprising encompassed most of Zhili province and threatened Beijing itself. The appeal of
inaccessible frontierland to religious movements is analysed in R. H. C. Shek, “Religion and Society”,
p. 307 ff. On the weakness of late imperial government in inter-provincial border areas, see also R. G.
Tiedemann, “The Persistence of Banditry: Incidents in Border Districts of the North China Plain”, in:
Modern China VIII-3 (July 1982), pp. 402-404.
46 See the letter by Luigi da Signa, preserved as APF file SC, series III, Cina and Regni Adiacenti,
1806-1811, ff. 107-108.
47 See Luke 18:25.
48 Cf. APF source SOCP, Indie Orientali, 1806-1811, folium 37: Nella notte in silenzio alla vista della
Luna piangiamo tristi la nostra disgrazia. Noi siamo peccatori, e poveri, ma vogliamo contento
osservare fino alla morte i commandamenti di Dio, ... , non ostante la nostra povertà.
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sectarian movements. The Qing state therefore treated all areas ravaged by poverty as
potential hearths of sedition, focusing on “outsiders” who upset the local equilibrium
by inculcating the village population with heterodox thought.49
Economic deprivation also affected the Christian community in the capital,
where Christians were frequently unable to attend church services even on the cardinal
holidays. Requests to interrupt their daily work on Sundays at lunch time in order to
go to mass were greeted with acerbic remarks, doubting the willingness of the
Christians to work. The Beijing community therefore usually resorted to observing the
most important acts of Christian worship in the safety of their homes - prompting
several requests for the dispensation from liturgical attendance by European clerics
based in Beijing.50 The Christian community in the capital area was affected most
directly by changes in official attitude, and thus often acted as a barometer for the
mission in the rest of the Qing empire. “The emperor is not keen on our religion; ... in
a nutshell, he is suspicious of us and a thousand secret enemies are in his ear against
us”, a letter written in 1728 by Gaubil to a Jesuit confrère in Paris stated.51 The letter
continued that due to state pressure, only a small number among his flock belonged to
the elite: “Four or five petty officials and two or three literati”. This would suggest
that already at the very beginning of the century of suppression, at a time when the
missionary presence at the imperial court was still relatively strong, the majority of the
Christian community in the capital belonged to the poorer strata - the same population
targeted by other heterodox movements.
The concept of wairen  as an external threat will be the topic of the following chapter.
Adding to the already mentioned requests by Bishop Alexander Gouvea. The letter indicating the
povertà quasi universale of the Christians in the capital can be found in a report compiled by the
Propaganda Fide in 1817 (APF SOCP, Indie Orientali, 1817, ff. 13 - 14).
51 L’empereur n’aime pas la Religion; ... en un mot, nous lui sommes suspects, mille ennemies secrets
lui parlent contre nous. The letter by Gaubil to P. Magnan in Paris was sent on 6 November 1726
(received 2 October 1728). Cf. Renée Simon (ed.), Le P. Antoine Gaubil, pp. 127-128.
49
50
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3. The state versus Christian “heresy”
In his accusations against the Christian families among the elite of the Qing
empire, the Manchurian minister Sunjou reiterated the following arguments which had
already been pronounced in a imperial edict of 1727. Firstly, there was no need for a
Christian Lord of Heaven, as “Heaven” (Tian ) was already being worshipped,
both by the Manchurians and the Han Chinese. This worship, secondly, had been
passed down from the ancestors in the form of “rites” (li). Adding foreign beliefs
to this body of ancient rites would be paramount to disrespecting the rules of the
ancestors, and hence of the cosmic order. Christianity thus sowed the seeds of rivalry
into China’s families, separating parents from their offspring. It hence violated the
celestial commandment of filial piety.52 Similar misgivings are echoed in the article
“Notes concerning the Transformation of Christian Churches into Temples for the
Celestial Empress” by the scholar Li Wei.53 Li Wei (c.1687-1738) raised five
main objections against Christianity, most of which were of common currency in antiChristian elite circles: Firstly, Li Wei argued that it was inconceivable for the Master
of Heaven to have existed before Heaven itself, in all its ancient manifestations. The
foreign missionaries secondly suggested that the worship of the Heavenly Master
should override the veneration of one’s parents and ancestors. This was not only in
complete contradiction to all Chinese customs but also illogical, as Heaven created
one’s parents for the younger generation to respect, just as the missionaries reiterated
the importance of respecting all of the Heavenly Master’s creation. This point thirdly
52
See letter to R.P. Cayron (4-10-1727), in Renée Simon (ed.), Le P. Antoine Gaubil, pp. 152-160.
See Huangchao jingshi wenbian ,volume 69, Tianzhutang gai guanyinmiao
, pp. 1-16
53
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contradicted the reassurances by missionaries that in the West the bonds of loyalty
between master and servant, older and younger brother, friend and friend, existed as
much as they did in China. If this was true, then it was impossible that the new cult of
the Heavenly Master could replace all of these time-honoured bonds without major
transformations of the Chinese social body. Fourthly, Christianity taught its followers
to neglect the responsibilities of everyday life, and to concentrate on transcendental
arts. This irrational knowledge was transferred from the parents to their children, and
then from one generation to the next. Thus, if the heretical teachings managed to
permeate the Chinese family system completely, all notions of filial piety and of
correct social order would be corrupted. Finally, once confused by the notions of this
heretical religion, the younger ones would abandon their homes in order to spread
their religion and to serve others. In doing so, they would follow the example of the
foreign missionaries themselves, leaving behind their responsibilities as fathers and
sons, risking their health and lives to cross the oceans in order to spread heretical
ideas, to take advantage of China’s riches and to gain fame for themselves. Hence his
argument that all Christian churches be transformed into Temples for the Celestial
Empress (Tianhou ƒΖ), as this would constitute an economical and efficient way of
inculcating orthodox morality into the minds of the common people.54
The doctrinal definitions of the scholar-official elite, such as the outspoken
opinions of Li Wei, counted very heavily, as they represented the interpretation of the
state administration of its own role in state and society. In the imperial Chinese
tradition, only the state had the power and organisational strength to set parameters for
doctrine, as - in contrast to Islam and Christianity outside China - there were no
54
The ideas of Li Wei, an early Qing scholar, are exemplary of the long tradition of anti-Christian
refutation. For more details on Li Wei, see Hummel, Eminent Chinese of the Ch’ing Period, pp. 720-
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religious institutions with all-embracing authority. Confucianism never developed into
an independent religious tradition, but aligned itself as faithful servant of the state; as
the focus of state rituals it became the religious dimension of the state itself. Under
Confucian influence, the state regarded it as its main responsibility to rule over as well
as to educate the common people, while “protecting” the uneducated people from
corrupting thought. Consequently, religious groups acting from outside the parameters
set by the state had to be prevented from growing into entities strong enough to rival
the state in authority.55 The difference between “orthodox” and “heretical” was hence
to be found in the perception of religious movements by the state officials, the
religious dimension of a religious movement always being subordinate to its political
significance.56 The state saw its role in limiting the unchecked proliferation of mass
movements of any type, rather than understanding and sanctioning their beliefs. The
crux was hence whether or not a new movement submitted itself to the religious
suzerainty of a religious institution backed by the imperial administration. Groupings
which escaped this categorisation, whether Buddhist or Christian, were largely
perceived by the investigating officials as being cast out of the same mould. The
language of their allegations against heterodox communities fitted well into this
pattern.
Officials were puzzled by the growth of Christian communities during the
century of repression. Memorials recommending government action against Christian
communities often begin with the dramatising statement “The number of followers of
721.
55 See Christian Jochim, Chinese Religions: A Cultural Perspective, Englewood Cliffs / New Jersey:
Prentice-Hall 1986, p. 77.
56 Professor Ma Xisha observed that “the difference between popular religion and orthodox religion ...
is mainly political, not religious.” Cf. Ma Xisha and Han Bingfang, Zhongguo minjian zongjiaoshi, p.
3.
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the Christian religion has increased throughout the province”.57 The increase in the
number of confessing Christians during the latter eighteenth century is confirmed by
missionary calculations from the first two decades of the following century. In a letter
sent to the Propaganda Fide in 1806, the Apostolic Vicar for Sichuan Dufresse
reported on the grave consequences of the ongoing persecution. Yet, he stressed, the
missionary statistics - 1134 new baptisms as opposed to 1139 deceased adult
Christians - merely ceased to increase - at least in Sichuan. And despite the “growing
timidity and increasing insecurity” among the converts, the overall figure of active
adults participating in the sacraments continued to go up.58 Moreover, the persecutions
were not carried out with equal determination in all district magistratures, and merely
affected those aspects of Christian life which could not be carried out in the privacy of
one’s home. Another piece of missionary correspondence states that petty officials and
yamen runners (satellites) were excluded from the direct implementation of the
persecutions since they were regarded as prone to extortion and unnecessary
violence.59 We hear excerpts from the Vicar Apostolic’s letter, which seem to confirm
the non-systematic character of the anti-Christian state action:
We now all enjoy peace and tranquillity, just as before. The faithful can
practise their religion safely at home, and the missionaries can look after
their office publicly and without fear: Our religion may thus not be legally
As in the memorial of 1807 on the Christian village of Sanggu  (FHA, scroll 9258, original
document 501, sub-numbers 16 and 17). Not all regions participated in the general increase in
conversion figures. The Jiangnan, for instance, witnessed a clearly negative development - a situation
which would stay unchanged until the establishment of Shanghai as a Treaty Port. See K. S. Latourette,
A History of Christian Missions, pp. 3-5. Johannes Beckmann, based on the aggregate of individual
counts by (Western) missionaries at the beginning of the nineteenth century, estimates the total number
of Christians in China at circa 221,000. See Johannes Beckmann, “Die Lage der katholischen Missionen
in China um 1815”, in: Neue Zeitschrift für Missionswissenschaft II (1946), p. 221.
58 See APF SC, series III, Cina e Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, ff. 207-208. But given the dramatic
demographic expansion of the time, the modest ‘increase’ appears more as a sign of relative decline.
59 Letter by Denis Chaumont to M. Boiret in Paris, sent from London on 26 October 1806, and kept at
the APF as document SC, series III, Cina et Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, folium 194 (continuation of
folium 167, same volume).
57
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permitted, but it seems to be tolerated by all. Nobody among the faithful is
fearful of the mentioned persecutions or the rumours of persecutions, as
those who are called by the officials to court are but few in number. [Of
these Christians] some are strong in their faith, preferring prison and
tribulations to apostasy, or even death....; others are weak ... turn their
back on their faith in front of the officials, ... begging to go home and to
lead a sinful life just as before.60
Though the archival evidence strongly suggests that a majority of scholar
officials during the mid-Qing were sceptical towards Christianity, some remembered
the contributions of the Jesuits, and hence judged their religion in a more positive
light. Gong Zizhen (1792-1841), an influential disciple of the reformer Liu
Fenglu  (1776-1829) and remembered for his opposition against the British
opium trade, composed a poem which mentioned Jesus - in the same breath as the
Tibetan reformer Tsongkha-pa.61 A less accidental example is probably the famous
historical outline study by the eighteenth century official Zhao Yi , who
dedicated a whole chapter to Christianity as well as other “universally established”
60
Letter by Dufresse, APF SC, series III, Cina e Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, folium 208 R. The
relevant passage in full: Atque ita causam finitam esse a multo jam tempore ubique de hoc religione ...
negotio siletur, eadem que prosus ac antea pace et tranquilitate gaudemus omnes, fideles privatis suis
exertiis eadem securitate, et aperte missionerii vero absque timore sed caute suo ministerio vacant:
Religio quidam non permittitur, sed omnia tolerata videtur. Ex fidelibus quos, inter praedictas
persecutiones aut persecutionem rumores, nimius terror invasit, vel quia praefectis ad tribunal evocati
sunt pauci simul numero, alii quidem se constantes in fide exhiberunt, supplicia et carceres potius
perferentes quasi ejurare et ex his unus pluribus mensibus in carcere detentus, multos in extremis mori
protulit, quam apportare: alii vero pro timore ac debilitate vel tabellam religionis absconderunt, ne
inquietarentur, vel coram praefectis ore ex scripto abjurarunt, ut se supliciis eximerent, ..., ac domum
reversi et poenitentes adhuc sic prius profitentur. Caeterum Deus tanta horum neophitorum fragilitatis
misertus, ..., ne forte pauci starent, fidesque multorum labefacterentur; su vindictam, autem, ut videtur,
sua Religionis impugnate, famen, pertem, exundationes aliasque calamitates immisit in populos, quae
multos provinciae locis magnam vastitatem attulerunt; nuper vero in provincia Xen si gravissima orta
in militum ipsorum rebellio, quae huic sutchuensi non leviter imminere videtur. Deus det nobis suam
pacem. Furthermore about the missionary schools in Sichuan: Scholae [Chris]tianae utriusque sexus in
eodem statu adhuc perseverant, nec tota persecutionis tempora fuerunt intermissa, eo quod nec
Regimen publicumde iis quidam curari videbatur, nec privati gentiles eas ullatemis inquietabant, nec
[Chris]tianitates in quibus sunt constitutae, ullum circa illas timorem praeferebant. Sunt autem hoc
anno 24. numero pro pueris, et 36. pro puellis, et in quatuor provinciae partibus dispersae.
61 Mentioned in T. H. Barrett, “Ignorance and the Technology of Information”, p. 23.
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religions.62 His chapter begins with a sequence revealing the author’s interest in the
history of civilisations outside China:
The majority of countries in Europe adhere to Christianity. The Master
of Heaven Jesus was born in Judea, formerly part of the Roman Empire.
His [doctrine] travelled west to be spread throughout Europe. Its
beginnings can be calculated to the Geng Sheng, or second year of the
Yuanshou reign period, during the rule of the Han emperor Ai
.63
The author continues with a description of Matteo Ricci’s work and his reception at
court, the reasons for the initial support by the Ming and Qing emperors and the
ultimate attack by the court officials. Stopping short of sheer eulogy, Zhao Yi
described
Christianity
as
“the
fourth
of
the
great
religions
on
earth”
(.
Whereas the Han literati remained relatively free to convert to Christianity, the
Manchurian elite was bound by a strict interpretation of earlier prohibitions. Since
Christianity had by the middle of the eighteenth century become a thoroughly (Han)
Chinese phenomenon, this may well be interpreted as an attempt by the Manchurian
dynasty to reverse the process of cultural assimilation which was quickly encroaching
upon China’s Manchurians. Adherence of Manchurian Banner troops to Christian
communities remained, in fact, forbidden throughout the entire period of repression.
The following document demonstrates that Christian soldiers of the Han Banners were
62 Ershier shizhaji , first published in 1799by Zhao Yi (1727-1815, alias
Zhao Oubei and Yun Song or ), reprinted by [Taibei:] Shixue chubanshe
1974. The relevant passage can be found on pp. 790-791.
63

. The Yuanshou reign period extended from 2 BC to 1 AD, its gengshen  year coinciding
accurately with year 1 AD.
305
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
also regarded as a threat to the security of the state.64 It contains a confession
identifying a certain Tong Lan , infantry colonel of the Plain Blue Han Banner
troops (zhenglanqi hanjun bujunxiao ). Tong Lan, 47
years of age and father of four children, recalls that “from the age of seven” he
followed the teachings of his grandfather and of his father. In so doing, he did not
attempt to commit anything daring or even heretical, but believed that by frequent
kow-towing in the church he would be able to “fly straight up to Heaven” (sihou keyi
feisheng ).65 Both his wife, Tong Lan confessed, and his children
had also become Christians. The fact that he belonged to a Banner unit, the
memorialising officials concluded, was already an audacious act. That the culprit
persisted in his erroneous ways after “repeated enlightening consultations”, and
eventually refused to apostatise was seen as sufficient reason not only to not request a
pardon, but to dismiss Tong Lan from his office and to convey both him and his
family to the Board of Punishment for trial.66 The appointment of an ardent and
experienced enemy of millenarian insurrections - the high-ranking Manchurian
commander Eledengbao - as commander-in-chief against the sectarians
shortly before his death, underlines the sense of urgency the Grand Council attached to
See the FHA memorial of 7/5/1806, by Lu Kang , Wen Ning and Fu
Hui(scroll 9260, original document 498, sub-number 37). The document is entitled
"Interrogation during custody of the Infantryman Tong Lan, adherent to the Western religion"
. Wang Zhichun, Qingchao rouyuan ji, pp. 163-164, contains a
brief edict of JQ 10/5 (June 1805) commenting on his arrest, emphasising the moral responsibilities of
being a Bannerman.
65 The original text of the FHA document (scroll 9260, original document 498, sub-number 37):




66(ibidem)




64
306
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
the elimination of “subversive elements” in the armed forces. From the middle of the
1790s, right up to the moment of issuing the memorial, Eledengbao had encountered a
similar threat during the campaigns against the White Lotus. The success of the
ruthless suppression of the insurrection rested entirely on the total control of the
military leadership over the lives of their troops.67 “Secret” cults were therefore put on
a par with “subversive” cults, and had to be eradicated from the Banner armies at any
price. In a memorial relating to the confession by Colonel Tong Lan, Eledengbao
deplores the "secret practising of western teachings, emphasising the moral
responsibility Tong Lan held over his subordinates. The refusal to turn his back on the
secret cult led the veteran commander to request permission to demote and punish
Tong Lan and two of his subordinates.68 What made the matter far more serious for
the representatives of the state was the discovery that virtually his whole clan
professed to be Christians too - most of whom were being employed by the cavalry of
the same Banner.69 Mentioning the cavalry officers Tong Hengshan by name, a list of
twenty-three brothers, uncles and nephews stood accused of “secretly practising the
western religion”, of having rejected the enlightening instructions of their superiors,
and of wittingly persisting in their unlawful sectarian affiliation. Seeing that several of
their kinsmen were still in their teens (youding ), the commanders offered to
spare at least those who felt that they did not actually practise the religion, despite
following the teachings of their ancestors. Only after this last act of commiseration
67
As to Eledengbao’s role in the suppression of popular movements, see de Groot, Sectarianism and
Religious Persecution, p. 362.
68 See the memorial of 9/5/1805 by Eledengbao , Guang Xing ,
Pusabaoa nd Fusejianecha  , filed at the FHA, scroll 9260, original
document 498, sub-number 39. The memorial is entitled "Secret Practising of the Western religion by
the
vice-commander
Li
Qingxi"
[subordinate
of
Captain
Tong
Lan]
. A related edict can be found in Wang Zhichun, Qingchao
rouyuan ji, pp. 150-151.
307
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
had failed, did the high commanders recommend that all relatives be tried by the
Board of Punishment.70
In a second edict five months later, the Jiaqing emperor imposed severe
restrictions on the immigration of foreigners from Macau: Traders apart, no foreigners
were allowed to cross the demarcation line into the empire. This provision was
specifically aimed at missionaries, and can be interpreted as the direct result of P.
Adeodato’s attempt to send his map to Europe via Macau.71 It should not, on the other
hand, be seen as an isolated act of official vengeance against Christianity - other
movements threatened the internal peace of the empire, which caused the Qing to act
relentlessly against developments escaping the state officials’ control. The
consequences of the concerted drive against Christian communities during the first
decades of the nineteenth century are evidenced by reports of successful state action for instance in a memorial submitted by the governor-general of the Huguang doubleprovince Ma Huiyu in the year 1814.72 The governor-general, revealing a
sense of triumphant vindication, presented the memorial together with the spoils of his
campaign: “Scrolls of scriptures, pictures and sculptures from the homes of simple69 A memorial submitted on the same day by Eledengbao et al.also mentions the senior
officer Li Qingxi  and male members of his clan. See FHA, scroll 9260, original document
498, sub- number 39, frames 750-751.
70 Eledengbao et al., 9/5/1805 (FHA, scroll 9260, original document 498, sub-number 39, frames 751752): “The infantry battalion has been blessed with many young soldiers ... Of these eight, young and
old, were asked if they secretly were Christians (“belonged to the Western religion”). All those who
really did not practise the teachings were asked to step out and report. Those cadets who had the gall to
adhere to the illegal teachings, and who persisted in their mistaken ways despite repeated adhortations
and instructions, only in exceptional cases of commiseration [should they not] ... be demoted and
brought
to
justice?”
(


)
71 Jiaqing 11/11/10 (31/12/1805). See “Veritable Records of the Jiaqing Emperor”,vol. 152, reprinted
in Zhang Ze, Qingdai jinjiaoqi de tianzhujiao, p. 153.
72 See the memorial by Ma Huiyu , JQ 19/9/12, i.e. 24/10/1814, FHA, scroll 8875, original
document 2750, sub-number 7, frames 1944 - 1952. The document is entitled “Request for mercy by
308
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
minded commoners, and a wooden crucifix”.73 Moreover, the culprits had “mended
their ways by showing remorse” (gaihui ), and left the sectarian movement which was, after all, the main objective of any official action. By letting the former
Christians illustrate the reasons for their apostasy, Ma Huiyu argues the case for their
release without punishment. The defendants, led by the elders Chen Jinhui
and Hu Wenguang , described their former Christian lifestyle in
all simplicity: The silent recital of the scripture "Thoughtful Lessons from the
Celestial Spirit” (Tianshen xiangke ), each morning and evening at
home. A fast on every ninth day, with a special two-day fast and collective
(“uncontrolled” wang ) worship to commemorate the ancestors who had
introduced the Christian faith.74 The defendants stressed that they would not have
dared to raise money or to propagate their faith in public. They were not entirely sure
either who the statues and even the crucifix referred to, though they remembered very
clearly the time when their ancestors had brought the Christian objects into their
village.75 The “Thoughtful Lessons” apart, the contemporaries were unable to read any
of the other scriptures their ancestors had brought home. The statues, pictures and the
wooden crucifix, we learn, were used for “prayers for good fortune and redemption of
sins” (gongfeng tuxiang xitu qifu mianzui ). One
defendant admitted to having “implored the Holy Mother for mercy” (bao shengmu en
). More than a dozen family heads repeated, in perfect stereotype, that
commoners who have shown remorse and who have abandoned their beliefs” (
).
73 . Ibidem, frame 1945.
74Ibidem,
frame
1946:


75 Ibidem, frames 1946-1947: “In year 47”, i.e. 1782 (it could, in theory also refer to year 47 of the
Kangxi era, i.e. 1708, though the omission of the reign period indicates the more recent Qianlong
period).
309
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
they were unable to read the scriptures introduced by their ancestors, and that they had
merely followed the instructions in the Christian creed their parents had passed on to
them. There was no desire to contravene any laws, nor was the incentive “sectarian”
(shejiao chuantu) or “financial” (yuqian ). Though the villagers
had made themselves liable for “congregating crowds and hoarding alien scriptures”
(jiren jiaozhong , cang jing-yi), the governor concluded, they
had shown their remorse by apologising for their trespasses, and by parting with their
“alien scriptures, scrolls and statues”, all of which were now “ready to be
destroyed”.76 It is difficult to assess whether we see a true apostasy or a last-minute
attempt to escape persecution, but in either case it seems evident that the local
Christians had lost the insight into the faith which their parents had still possessed.
Clinging on to the fragments of their parents’ beliefs, material or as part of their
collective memory, seemed innocuous while life carried on without major challenges.
Whether the villagers were prepared to defy the stance of the state officials in this case
is a question the archives leave unanswered.
To the prosecuting state officials, the religious identity of the interrogated
villagers was secondary to their role as originators of social unrest. The sources
consulted in this chapter suggest that the state attempted to prevent two potential
scenarios: Firstly, in order to retain control over the empire as such it was of
paramount importance to preserve the stability of local society. In an unprecedented
attempt to establish their imprint on China’s rural districts, the Kangxi, Yongzheng
and Qianlong administrations propagated a neo-Confucian ideal to the commoners in
the empire which was both socio-moral as well as political. Moral propriety was seen
76
See memorial by Ma Huiyu, JQ 19/9/12, i.e. 24/10/1814, FHA, scroll 8875, original document 2750,
sub-number 7, frame 1952.
310
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
as the panacea against social deviancy and political unrest. The mission of the state
was aimed at the hearts of the very same villagers who were being courted by
heterodox movements of varying identity.77 The spread of Christian communities
throughout the eighteenth century was thus interpreted as part of a groundswell of
disobedience against the keepers of orthodoxy, a veritable menace to the basis of
social and political order in the Qing empire. Secondly, and in more concrete terms,
popular religious teachings always harboured the danger of fostering uncontrollable
mass movements, which might at a later point serve as a recruitment ground for armed
opposition to Qing rule. The interrogators’ standard repertoire thus always included
questions concerning the organisational hierarchy and mode of congregating for their
cultic activities. The Christians encountered in our sources seem to have been well
aware of the state officials’ concerns, and routinely replied that their meetings were
“private” in nature, without attempting to establish a paid (thus official) organisational
superstructure. Increasingly, during the course of the eighteenth century, the
authorities underlined their commitment to the preservation of the status quo, by
including the Christian communities in their list of “heretical” movements, and by
meting out punitive action as was seen fit for the sake of containing the proliferation
of criminal movements within the realm. Whereas the present chapter highlighted the
state’s perception of Christianity as an “internal” phenomenon, the following one will
illustrate that the characterisation of Chinese Christianity as a “foreign” religion
continued throughout the century of prohibition. This perception waxed and waned
with the presence of foreign nationals in the empire and - at the beginning of the
77
Susan Naquin, on the other hand, believes that White Lotus “sectarians” were relatively
“unheterodox” (quotation marks by Naquin) in comparison with China’s Christians. This conclusion is
based on the statement by a Qing official (recorded in the Waijidang , Jiaqing 16/4/14, i.e.
1813), reporting on the unorthodox behaviour of Christians. See Susan Naquin, “Transmission of White
Lotus Sectarianism”, p. 290.
311
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
nineteenth century - amassing outside its borders. The chapter begins by introducing
the position of foreign missionaries at the end of the Kangxi period, and by outlining
the consequences of the Yongzheng edict for Western nationals. The focus, however,
is on the infiltration of foreign traders and missionaries in the decades after
Macartney’s embassy to the Qing throne.78 While the emphasis of this thesis has been
on the conditions created by the relative absence of missionaries, the following
chapter will concentrate on the increasing presence of Western missionaries towards
the end of missionary prohibition. The increased control over rites and theological
content would, effectively if gradually, bring the first stage of the development of
indigenous Christianity to a halt.
78
Foreigners arrested by Qing guards were all classified as belonging to either of these two categories.
The increasing number of traders, in particular in the decades leading up to the Opium War, would lead
to a change in the official perception of foreigners. For a general overview of the early phase of China’s
penetration by European traders and their perception by the local population in Guangdong, see F.
Wakeman, Strangers at the Gate, pp. 52-58.
312
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
Chapter 10: Christianity as alien intrusion
Far from bringing the missionary enterprise of the Catholic orders to an end,
the Yongzheng edict effectively forced Christian missionaries underground. Imperial
law put even non-believers who granted an abode to the itinerant preachers at peril,
thus imposing a formidable degree of social isolation on the “soldiers of Christ”
during the eighteenth century.1 More concerned with the task of preserving the
internal stability of society and of the Banner troops than with the concept of an acute
military threat by foreign powers, the Qing authorities attempted to nip the emergence
of internal unrest in its bud by preventing “outsiders” from disrupting the peaceful
agricultural life of local society. Archival evidence illustrating violations of the
prohibition to leave Macau for locations in the Chinese heartland can be found
sporadically throughout the eighteenth century, but only in isolated instances was the
presence of foreign missionaries interpreted as an offence worthy of direct central
government involvement. As already mentioned, the region where the imperial edict
against foreign missionary activity was first implemented was the province of Fujian.
The link between the foreign origins of Christianity and the Christian communities on
shore was still self-evident. After all, Fujian had been one of the most obvious
entrepôts for missionaries and merchants alike. The following statement, commenting
on the final moments of converts condemned to death, hence reads very naturally:
“The three catechists could still hear their sentence, to die by the sword because of
having embraced the religion of the Portuguese, which reveres Christ”.2 The tolerance
1
See B. Willeke, Imperial Government, pp. 17 and 115-117.
Same source, folium 126. The Italian version: I tre Catechisti ancora sentirono la lora sentenza di
morir decapitati per aver’ abbraciato la Legge de’ Portughesi, che adora Cristo.
2
313
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
threshold against Chinese collaborators with the foreign intruders was therefore very
low - as it was, outside the capital area, towards the foreigners themselves.
The following discovery of European missionaries in the Fuan Prefecture
, Fujian Province, in the year 1746 can be taken as case in point.3 The
European Pedro Sanz, OP (Baiduolu ), together with five of his confrères,
had landed on the shores of the Qing empire in order to find followers for his religious
ideas. The province had long-since gained a reputation as a magnet for mendicant
Christian monks, who were opposed to the strategy of accommodation practised by
the Jesuits. Instead of attempting to convince the social and political elite, the
mendicants targeted deprived villagers, offering the prospect of metaphysical justice
where material conditions denied all solace in this world. Their main competitors, in
official eyes, were hence not primarily the Confucian scholar officials sent by the
state, but fellow millenarians of Buddhist extraction, such as the Luo sect.4 The
Europeans
were
found
guilty
of
erecting
churches
(qigai
tianzhutang
), of
“confusing the simple-minded” (shanhuo yumin ), and of spreading
heresy through “congregating the crowds and chanting scriptures” (juzhong songjing
) - activities which had been explicitly prohibited through imperial
legislation. The more than 130 converts in the district had thus not only violated Qing
law (ketiao), but also contributed to the immersion of aliens into the provinces
of the Jiangnan - and maybe even further into the southern heartland, which was still
3
The following observations are extracted from a memorial by the Manchurian governor general for the
Jiangnan, Gioro Yarhashan , dated 11 October 1746. It is entitled "Request for
exceptional harshness in the treatment of the illegal Western religion" (Qing shen-jin xiyangjiao teyan
zhizui ), and can be found at the FHA, scroll 9258, original
document 492, sub-number 3, frames 289-292.
4 The remark by the Manchurian official underlines that Christianity was by now regarded as part of a
tide of “heretical” movements, threatening to disrupt the empire’s social peace. Ibidem, frame 290.
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recovering from the Three Feudatories uprising. The recommendation urged upon the
Qianlong ruler was hence to apply the laws of the empire as strictly as possible, in
order to root out the menace to social stability and state control by popular
movements. The message was clearly understood by the young emperor, who
commented on the memorial in stern vermilion: “Each city and province has already
received orders to deal effectively with your recommendations. The situation is truly
very mettlesome. Heed my command!”5 Sanz, together with four fellow Dominicans
and scores of Chinese Christians were executed within days of the verdict. Though far
from an everyday experience, the discovery of foreign nationals within the boundaries
of the Qing state alarmed the state machinery - if alone for the mere fact of having
managed to penetrate the empire without having been detected by the border troops.
The “secrecy” (you qin ) of the foreigners’ immersion into the hinterland, and
the clandestine nature of the eighteenth century missions were sufficient to regard
intruders as “criminals” (fan ), on a par with internal insurgents. The brief account
of a small band of foreigners detected in Guangdong province is characteristic of this
attitude. It describes the arrival of “alien” merchants from England (ying-ji-li yi shang
), who then colluded with other foreigners in Macau and with
several named commoners from Fujian province in order to “stealthily propagate
Christianity” in southern China.6 Through their “nefarious lies and stultification of the
masses” (kuangpian huozhong ), the foreigners thus endangered the
5
Ibidem.
The
zhupiin
the
original:

6 See the memorial by Li Chuanguang , dated 28 May 1758 and filed at the FHA, scroll
9258, original number 492, sub-number 11, frames 314-315.
315
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
stability of the coastal provinces - which were still recovering from the coastal
evacuation against anti-Qing forces at sea and on Taiwan.7
The concept of “outsiders”, in terms of territorial (waidiren ) or
social affinity (wairen ), encompassed both Chinese subjects from other
provinces and foreign individuals. Europeans - by law restricted in their choice of
domicile to Beijing and Macau - were usually referred to as “Persons from the
Western Oceans” (xiyangren), though the term “alien” (yi ) is
frequently used in official sources.8 Outside influence was regarded as contrary to
government efforts to stabilise society, one of the prime concerns of the early Qing
rulership. Here we face a contradiction: Judgements on the involvement of “outsiders”
(waidiren) had to be passed by officials who were by definition themselves
“outsiders”: Firstly as city-based wairen confined to the scholar-official elite, and
secondly as perfect strangers to their administrative area, having been despatched from
their remote home provinces as part of the “Law of Avoidance”. Nevertheless, one of
the standard methods of discrediting sectarian movements was to cite the involvement
of such “aliens” - as an attempt to poison the otherwise tranquil ways of the local
population. The most poignant examples include the Taitian and Sansheng
communities, as well as the Luojiao tradition.9 Fears of outsiders exporting
seditious thinking also influenced the perception of Christian communities by the
authorities. Throughout the period of prohibition, Christianity was pejoratively
7
An edict of JQ 19/11 (December 1814), citing the discovery of the Briton Staunton (Sidangdong
) within the borders of Guangdong province, emphasises the increasing defensiveness of the
Qing state. It also served as a reminder to the Qing that the attempts of 1805 and 1811 to curtail
contacts between the foreign missionaries and the Chinese Christians of the provinces were far from
successful. For the full text see Wang Zhichun, Qingchao rouyuan ji, p. 164.
8 The debate concerning the correct translation of yi (often translated as “barbarian”) reflects
Western confusion over Chinese claims of cultural superiority. The crux of the debate is whether the
term should be interpreted as pejorative or neutral in meaning. For a detailed analysis of the debate, see
Frank Dikötter, The Discourse of Race in Modern China, pp. 8-10.
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Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
referred to as the “foreign religion” (xi)yangjiao () , although direct foreign
influence could only be proven in exceptional cases.10 The term should therefore be
taken with a pinch of salt, except for instances when direct participation by European
nationals could be proven. Owing to the increase in commercial activities and in the
colonial ambitions of European naval powers, the beginning of the nineteenth century
witnessed the reimmersion of foreigners into China. The imperial administration
hence saw itself confronted with an increasing challenge from “beyond the seas” which bestowed the pejorative term for Christianity with a new sense of originality.
Contemporary missionary correspondence seems to confirm this observation.
Commenting on the wave of persecutions carried out by imperial decree between 1805
and 1811, a report corroborated by the Propaganda Fide on the situation of the
missions in China at the beginning of the new century highlights the differences in the
quality of the new persecutions.11 No longer were Christians merely regarded as
“sectarians” (setta malveggia, i.e. xiejiao ), but actively punished for following
a “foreign religion”. This, according to the Propaganda report, set the current
persecutions apart from those of the preceding Qianlong period, which justified its
anti-Christian action as part of the drive against “heresy”.12
For most of the eighteenth century, the “illegal penetration” by European
missionaries from the coastal provinces was relatively simple to address for the Qing
See Shiliao xunkan, section ‘Heaven’ , volume 12, pp. 373-376.
Examples for this observation can be found in a memorial on rural Christianity from 1806. Cf. FHA,
scroll 9258, original document 408, sub-number 12. Another document from the same year (“Palace
Memorials Approved by the Emperor’s Hand” (zhupi zhouze ), category ‘Religious
Affairs’ (zongjiao shiwulei ), document number 4 explicitly excludes any influence
by foreigners. It does, on the other hand, list the names of Christians of Shaanxi origin actively involved
in the spreading of Christianity in Sichuan. Daniel Bays holds the same opinion for Chinese Christianity
during the nineteenth century. See Daniel Bays, “Christianity and the Chinese Sectarian Tradition”, p.
33.
11 Cf. APF source SOCP, Indie Orientali, 1817, ff. 9 - 16. Folium 11 V refers specifically to as to why
the current persecutions focused on foreign nationals in particular.
12 Here referred to as the Qianlong policy against “Perverted Sects” (sette perverse).
9
10
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officials. How to deal with contacts solicited by Western nationals resident in Beijing,
however, was a far more delicate problem, since the imperial boards relied on the
expertise of the foreign guests, and because missionaries in the capital had been
explicitly exempted from the Yongzheng edict against Christian missionary activity in
the empire. Memorials on the subject of foreign Christians detained in the provinces
of northern China seem to underline this dilemma.13 Zhili province was particularly
important in this regard, because it surrounded the capital area, but Shanxi, Shaanxi
and Henan province feature with equal frequency, since these provinces provided
hiding places for refugees from the immediate vicinity of the capital, or from Beijing
itself. The evidence submitted by the chief official of the Shuntian magistrature, the
shunyin Jiang Bing , may serve as an example.14 The case opened with
the question of whether three foreigners, the Jesuits Felix da Rocha (1713-1781, Fu
Zuolin ), and Ignatius Koegler (1680-1746, Dai Jinxian ), as well
as aZhang Anduocould be regarded as illegally spreading knowledge of
Christianity, and he questioned what ought to be done with the Chinese Christians
who were found to have assisted the aliens.15 Of the latter we learn that they were “all
simple country folk” (jun xi xiangyu ) from villages surrounding the
13
The official commentary on the arrest of the Italian Bayaliyang made no secret of the allure the
existing Christian centres had on foreign missionaries. An imperial statement of QL 50/10 (November
1785) states that the churches of Beijing “attract people from all European countries, whose footprints
can be traced all over Zhili province.” The edict also confirmed that all northern provinces, including
Shanxi, Shaanxi, Shandong and Zhili, harboured clandestinely proselytising [foreign] missionaries
(

). See Wang Zhichun, Qingchao rouyuan ji, p.
134.
14 QL 11/8/2, viz. 16 September 1746, by Jiang Bing( FHA, scroll 9258, original document 493,
sub-number 26, frames 369-375). It is entitled: "Acknowledged report of testimony concerning Fu
Zuolin" ( ). The case is also mentioned in Ma Zhao, Shilun Qianlong
shiqi (1736-1796) chajin tianzhujiao shijian, p. 43 as an example of missionaries illegally transporting
scriptures and sacred objects from the capital and Macau to the Christian communities of the interior.
15 The names of Koegler and da Rocha correlate to Dehergne, Répertoire des Jésuites and/or de
Moidrey, La Hiérarchie Catholique. The third name could not be identified (Anduo is the Christian
name ‘Anthony’).
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imperial capital, and that they followed their elder Liu Ying'er .16 The
testimony of “simple villager” Liu was used to extract information about foreign
missionaries, who themselves - as long as they were not caught outside the perimeters
of the capital - enjoyed the protection of the imperial court. The officials thus gained
insight into the links that existed between the “official” churches of the capital and the
Christian communities in towns and villages. When cases of collusion between
foreign missionaries and local Christians were discovered, official punitive action
found no obstacles in its treatment of Chinese Christians. A memorial from the year
1754 describes the inhabitants of a Christian village in Zhili province as “religious
criminals” (jiaofei ), who - aided by the foreign priests in Beijing - incited a
couple of thousand local villagers to rise up against the dynasty. The outer symbols of
their belief were ordered destroyed, their leaders arrested and physically punished.
Moreover, in this case the desired name registers could be produced, which led to the
punishment of more than twenty Christian families.17
Whenever, as in the above example, foreigners were involved in “seditious”
activities, the official propaganda would seize on the fact as an example of waidiren
intruding into the well-ordered lives of rural China. Memorials and edicts commenting
on such cases would usually cite the appropriate passages of the Yongzheng edict in
order to underline where the foreigners had overstepped the limits set by the imperial
government. In reality, the majority of Christian missionaries active by the end of the
eighteenth century were indeed Chinese nationals, or at least “Chinese” in origin since increasing numbers had undergone missionary training in European outposts in
The rural districts mentioned are Qingwan and Daxing .
See FHA, scroll 9258, original document 493, sub-number 30, frames 380-381. The official’s name
is Fang Fucheng , the village in Zhili province is a certain Shouying [ ?]. The date is
QL 19/5/23, i.e. 12/7/1754.
16
17
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Asia (Philippines, Macau, Malacca) or in Europe (Naples).18 The correspondence
composed by European missionaries usually refers to these Chinese priests by their
baptismal “Christian” names - either in the Latin spelling or in a Romance variant together with a romanised version of their Chinese family name. The four priests
active in Sichuan around the year 1767 were the indefatigable missionary Andrew Ly,
as well as Luc Ly, Matthew Kou and Thomas Nien.19 For the year 1806 alone, we
learn of “old guns”, such as Carolus Tan (Shanxi), Camillo Ciao (Shaanxi), Giuseppe
Li (Hang Ciong Fu?) and Josephus Ly (alias Petrus Zai).20 We also read about novices
“imported” from abroad, such as Paolo Vang (Naples), who were bolstering their
locally-raised compatriots. Young missionaries, for instance Giacomo Li, Franciscus
Zen and Silvestro Ho, are described as being full of evangelical zeal but lacking in
experience.21 More mature priests, of the calibre of a Mattia or Pietro Vang and
Philippus Li, were ready to offer guidance to their nascent successors, though often
not without “teething problems”. The disputes surrounding headstrong characters such
as Mauro Li and Paulo Van have already been mentioned. A letter of 1806 by
Alexandre Gouvea, Bishop of Beijing, to Cardinal Borgia, refers to Simon Fan, the
“bête noire” of the Chinese clergy. A native of his apostolic diocese of Shanxi, the
twenty-year old Simon Fan experienced serious problems with his supposed role as a
spiritual model to his flock. Unable to withstand the pressure, the alumnus was ejected
18
See Adolfo Tamburello, “Partenze e arrivi degli alunni del Collegio de’ Cinesi di Napoli nell’anno
1785”, in: F. D’Arelli and A. Tamburello, La Missione Cattolica in Cina, pp. 273-281.
19 See Léonide Guiot, La Mission du Su-tchuen au XVIIIme siècle, p. 225. Andrew Li died some seven
years later, on 23 January 1774. See also F. Bontinck, La lutte autour de la liturgie chinoise, p. 366,
note 73.
20 Mentioned in the letter by A. Luigi da Signa, Puhuo, Shanxi 7 March 1806, APF SC, series III, Cina
et Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, folium 107 V, together with reports on European missionaries active in
the provinces of Shanxi and Shaanxi.
21 Cf. the brief report on the state of the mission in Shanxi, preserved as APF SC, series III, Cina et
Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, folium 138. See also the remarks by Dufresse for Sichuan: Bad Latin and
restrictions in the biblical knowledge of the novices was compensated for by the willingness, zeal and
humility of the students, APF SC, series III, Cina et Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, ff. 207-208.
320
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from his missionary field and fled to Gouvea in Beijing, in order to request his
intervention. When the limits of the bishop’s influence became clear to Simon Fan, he
requested to be dismissed from his missionary duties.22
These examples demonstrate that the “alien creed” often showed few signs of
direct foreign influence.23 On the contrary, the internal dynamics of Christianity seems
almost entirely analogous to the descriptions of “indigenous” cults. This becomes
obvious when official Qing reports involving the missionary activities of “outsiders”
are consulted, and differences in the description of Chinese and Western waidiren
shrink into insignificance. A case in point is the memorial by Fang Weidian
, Governor of Shaanxi Province.24 The text mentions indigenous Christian
clerics (shenfu ) by name, accusing them of forming a channel to Christians in
Sichuan and Shandong. The “aliens” in this case were Christians from Sichuan
province, under the spiritual leadership of a Liu Biyue . Having moved to
Shaanxi by the year 1784, the missionaries from Sichuan established links with the
well-known local Christian Liu Ximan (Simon Liu). In the official account,
the Chinese missionaries stand accused of “enticing the rural simpletons” of Shaanxi.
The official leaves no doubt that the Christians had upset the local order by entering
the Shaanxi countryside as “aliens”. Let us contrast this stereotypical description with
the account of the detention of four Western “aliens” in an earlier document. The
foreigners bear the Chinese names of Zhang Ruose 25, Liu Manuo
[Manuel de Viegas, 1713 - 1768], Li Ruose [José Pereira, 1674 -
22
The letter is dated 20 October 1806 and can be found in the APF as SC, series III, Cina et Regni
Adiacenti, 1806-1811, ff. 165-166.
23 Ma Zhao comes to the same conclusion. See his “Shilun Qianlong shiqi (1736-1796) chajin
tianzhujiao shijian”, p. 46.
24 FHA, scroll 9261, original document 503, sub-number 39, dated JQ 10/IC6/16 (10/8/1805).
24 Ibidem.
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1731] and Gong An-duo-ni [José de Araújo, 1721 - 1774].26 The four
were held accused of “clandestinely entering the interior for the sake of proselytising
and
distributing
religious
tracts”
(qianru
zhongtu
chuan-jiao
you-shujing
). Having entered Qing territory through the province
of Guangdong, they quickly headed for the wealthy markets of the Jiangnan - the old
heartland of Chinese Christianity. Stirring up unrest in an area already beset by
sectarian uproar, the missionaries were accused of “tricking people into their faith
with magical tricks” (yi huanshu you-ren ru-jiao ), and of
“agitating and confusing people’s minds” (shanhuo renxin ). Their
“machinations” included treacherous stories about the [spiritual] “cleansing properties
of magic water and wine” (yi shui jiu qu qi qingjing obviously an allusion to the Eucharist), as well as of the notion of being able to
“ascend to heaven through the chanting of hymns” (song-jing sheng-tian
). For this purpose, the missionaries made use of printed materials to
propagate their beliefs, by “sending letters” and by “distributing cultic pamphlets” (ji
shuxin  ... san zhaidan). Assisted by local Christian
communities, the missionaries used the waterways and country lanes of the Jiangnan
and of Fujian, the hills of Zhejiang and Jiangxi, and the commercial routes of
25
The name of the foreigner could not be verified, though Ruose is the commonly used baptismal name
for “Joseph”.
26 Memorial dated 26 July 1754, by E Rong’an et al. (FHA, scroll 9258, original document
492, sub-number 8, frames 299-302). It is entitled: "Legal recommendations concerning the case against
the Christians Zhang Ruose, et alii" (). The memorial is
preceded by two brief reports (12 May 1754 and 26 June 1754) to the throne, composed by Lin Junlong
a nd He Nian , respectively. These reports state in terse style the arrest of the foreign
missionaries, and the complicity of the arrested Christian villagers, and bear the FHA sequel numbers 57. Ma Zhao briefly mentions the case (memorial by Governor General of the Yangtse double province E
Rong’an  and also the above-mentioned memorial by the Jiangsu circuit official Zhuang
Yougong  of QL 19/5/29 (18/7/1754), scroll 9258, number 9) in order to illustrate the
stiffening resolve of the state to deal with the increasing number of Christians in parts of the Jiangnan.
See Ma Zhao, Shilun Qianlong shiqi (1736-1796) chajin tianzhujiao shijian, p. 27. The identity of the
foreign priests was reconstructed with the help of L. Pfister, Notices biographiques et bibliographiques
322
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Guangdong to enter the heartland. So far, the only element which sets this report apart
from the previous description of Chinese missionary activity is the very mention of the
term “Western” (xiyang ) in conjunction with the mentioned missionaries.
Otherwise, the official report provides no proof for the assumption that there was a
qualitative difference between the missionary activity of Han and European outsiders.
The testimony of the main defendant, Zhang Ruose, further underlines this
observation:
The defendant Zhang Ruose  gave the following testimony:
‘I come from Lusitania in the West, and am at present 33 years of age. In
the sixth month of year sixteen in the Qianlong era [i.e. during the period
of 23/7 - 20/8 1751] I left the West for the cathedral of Macau. In the
second month of Qianlong 17 [i.e. between 16/3 and 13/4 1752], Bishop Ji
Leisi  ordered the Dageng District  resident Xie
Wenshan  and the Macanese Xu Fangjige  to
accompany me and Liu Manuo, to head for Songjiang 
by means of the waterways. There I lived and entertained regular contacts
with the families of Zhou Jingyun , Wu Xizhou , Ni
Dezai , Huang Yuchen , Wu Xiangsheng ,
Xu Chengjiu and Zhuang Wuguan . I also travelled
on the boat of Xu Shengtong , which I used for religious
purposes. Our silver money had borne interest in Macau. Of this amount I
and Liu Manuo took five hundred ounces, which we distributed among the
Christians by way of Shen Madou . And then there were two
lots of silver coins from Macau, also worth five hundred ounces, which we
intended to use for clothes and for food, and which we gave into the care
sur les Jésuites de la ancienne mission de Chine, Shanghai 1932-34, and following suggestions by R.G.
Tiedemann.
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of Wang Qinyi . Via Wang Qinyi, we paid for accommodation,
transport by boat, services and for food.27
His Portuguese compatriot, Liu Manuo, confessed to having crossed the
Macanese border together with Zhang Ruose at the age of forty-one. In addition to the
above-mentioned Chinese subjects, he gave testimony of missionary activities in the
homes of the Nanhui villagers Shen Taijie and Zhang Yuying
. The other missionaries - Gong Anduoni, Li Ruose and Fei Diwoni
[Dionisio Ferreira, 1720 - 1771], all in their early thirties - also utilised
local contacts established with the help of the Macanese clergy. The locals, Fujianese
Christians, supplied the European missionaries with oarsmen and canal boats, usually
in exchange for a fee of “more than two hundred silverlings”. Fei Diwoni had at first
been requested by the Macanese bishop to bolster the missionary presence in the
capital - an indication of the continuing links between the two remaining missionary
bases in China. Following the advice of a Chinese Christian, however, the Europeans
changed their strategy, directing the young missionary to the Christian communities of
the Jiangnan instead. In the case of Li Ruose we learn that though he followed the
others into the interior, he was unable to proselytise due to the fact that “he did not
speak Chinese”.28 The missionaries rejected accusations that they had used drugs to
reduce the vigilance of the common people, justifying the salt, bread, oil and wine
found in their possession as sacrificial substances, which had either been brought over
from the west or purchased locally. The claim that they had infiltrated the Chinese
heartland with “ulterior motives” was countenanced by insisting that they were merely
27
This testimony is filed at the FHA, scroll 9258, original document 492, sub-number 8, frame 303.
“Portugal” is referred to either as luoxidani[ya] guo or as puerduoyani guo
- the scribe obviously being unaware of the synonymy of both place names. A
reference to Wang Qinyi has already been made on p. 172.
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following the call of the Lord of Heaven. They had hence decided to transgress the
imperial prohibition on missionary activities, and to enter China regardless of the
potential consequences.29 In the case of the 1754 document, the missionaries were
returned to Macau, while the local Christians were awarded the customary treatment one hundred blows of the cane and one month of enforced wearing of the cangue.30
For the remainder of the eighteenth century, the presence of foreigners within the
imperial boundaries was to remain exceptional - leaving the Qing authorities to deal
with internal challenges to their rule.
The increasing commercial activities from the last decade of the eighteenth
century onwards brought about a significant change in the perception of foreigners - in
particular following the audience of the British ambassador Macartney in 1793.31 On
the eve of Britain's expansion into East Asia, the mission's main objective was to
establish diplomatic ties which would allow for a more liberal exchange of goods
between Europe and China by means of the British merchant fleet. The visitors had
prepared themselves well in advance, and were also accompanied by interpreters from
the Chinese college at Naples. With the aim of securing further markets for the
expansion of the East India trade, and also of establishing commercial and political
links with the Qing administration which would have put Britain in a favoured
position in its competition with the other European powers present in the region, the
British ambassador saw his hopes thwarted after the Qianlong ruler decided to extend
28
( ibidem, frame 304).
29

( ibidem, frame 305).
30 As we shall see later, this relatively lenient treatment indicates that the empire did not yet feel under
imminent external threat.
31 For a general overview, see Robert A. Bickers (ed.), Ritual and Diplomacy: The Macartney Mission
to China, 1792-1794 (1992 Conference of the British Association of Chinese Studies marking the
Bicentenary of the Macartney Mission to China), London: Wellsweep Press 1993.
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the traditional hospitality awarded to foreign tributaries - without offering much more.
A “diplomatic” row erupted over the correct ritual behaviour of the guest - as
submissive tributary, not as equal within an international community of equals - when
Macartney refused to kow-tow to his host.32 The Qianlong rulership, on the other
hand, would probably have forgiven the faux pas if the international situation had
been less menacing. Along the northern borders of the Qing, the Muscovite empire
was constantly expanding its military might. The Dutch had briefly occupied Taiwan,
during the Ming-Qing transition, and had become a predominant force in the Asian
South-East. Furthermore, and very crucially in the context of the Macartney mission,
the Qing administration was becoming aware of the steadily consolidating influence of
the British on the Indian subcontinent, where principality after principality was coopted in a bid to reduce opposition to British rule.33 Nervous about the worsening
32
The “kow-tow” issue would subsequently be interpreted by Western historians as a clear sign of
Chinese arrogance and unwillingness to share the diplomatic code which was being perfected in
contemporary Europe. A typical representative of this interpretation is Earl H. Pritchard, “The Kowtow
in the Macartney Embassy to China in 1793”, in: Far Eastern Quarterly, II-2 (1943), pp. 163-201. See
his explanation on the origins of the kowtow tradition (sangui jiukeshou ), in
ibidem, pp. 165-167. A more nuanced interpretation is Zhang Shunhong’s contribution “Historical
Anachronism: The Qing Court’s Perception and the Reaction to the Macartney Embassy”, in Bickers,
Ritual and Diplomacy, p. 40 ff. Zhang does, however, not provide a radically new point of departure,
and reproduces the stereotype of China’s arrogant indifference towards the rest of the world, “in sharp
contrast to Britain’s knowledge of China” (ibidem, p. 40). A critical appraisal of Zhang’s article can be
found in T. H. Barrett, “Ignorance and the Technology of Information”, p. 21. The traditional
interpretation of the kowtow issue is criticised in James L. Hevia, “The Macartney Embassy in the
History of Sino-Western Relations”, in: Bickers, Ritual and Diplomacy, pp. 57-79, and
comprehensively in his monograph Cherishing Men from Afar - Qing Guest Ritual and the Macartney
Embassy of 1793, Durham / New Carolina: Duke University Press 1995.
33 I have been unable to locate concrete, primary proof of official fears concerning potential British
colonisation. Several imperial decrees dating from the turn of the nineteenth century, however, reveal
substantial knowledge of Britain, France and of the Indian subcontinent. This refers specifically to the
decree condemning the British assault on Macau of 1808 quoted in Wang Zhichun, Qingchao rouyuan
ji, pp. 153-158. Tseng-Tsai Wang (see idem, “The Macartney Mission: A Bicentenary Review”, in:
Bickers, Diplomacy and Ritual, pp. 50 and 54) does however refer to Chinese knowledge of the East
India Company’s involvement in the Gurkha conflict along the Tibetan-Nepalese border. This is based
on Wang’s interpretation of an imperial edict preceding the letter of the Qianlong emperor to George
III. The edict can be found in Zhang-gu congbian  (“Collected historical documents”),
Beijing: Imperial Palace Museum 1929, volume eight, p. 65. The edict indicates a suspicion, supported
by other Western traders, that the English may have had ulterior motives, and furthermore recommends
to be on the guard “due to previous incidents” involving the English (...

) . The simultaneous
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situation in the immediate vicinity of the Qing empire, the Qianlong administration
decided to monitor the movement of foreign vessels by restricting direct commercial
activity to the port of Guangzhou. The impatience of the independent traders in India
and in Indochina with the “Canton system” would eventually lead to contraband traffic
in opium and to the direct imposition of European force. At the time of Macartney’s
visit to the throne, however, the likelihood of such action still seemed remote, and the
wisest option, it seemed, was to keep a polite, yet safely distant relationship with
foreign merchants and ambassadors.34 The curiosity aroused by the diplomatic visit,
however, provided an important impetus to English and Scottish clerics poised to take
the torch of Christianity (and perceived “Protestant” values) to the corners of the
world. Robert Morrison (1782-1834) and William Milne (1785-1822) would soon join
the Catholic ambassadors of Christianity in Macau, and embark on the translation of
the Bible - the cornerstone of Protestant religious life. As a font of knowledge of
Chinese culture and language, Morrison was pivotal in his role as interpreter on the
occasion of the next British embassy to Beijing - that of Lord Amherst in 1816.35
Against this background, the ban against foreign missionary activity, as
defined by the Yongzheng edict of 1724, took on a more instrumental role during the
latter part of the eighteenth century. It was gradually becoming part of a policy of
conflicts between Tibetans and Han in western Sichuan is likely to have increased suspicions towards
foreign powers even further. See Léonide Guiot, La Mission du Su-tchuen au XVIIIme siècle, p. 215 ff,
for a description of the hostilities. Anecdotal evidence is also provided in Huc, Souvenirs of a Journey,
volume II, pp. 266-267, in the context of maps discovered in the luggage of Huc and Gabet.
34 This is at least the opinion of James Hevia, after interpreting the relevant edicts and memorials. See
J. L. Hevia, Cherishing Men from Afar, pp. 26 and 220 ff.
35 See John Kenneth Latourette, A History of the Expansion, VI, pp. 104-108. The two were aided by
Joshua Marshman (1768-1837), author of a Bible translation published in Serampore, India. Morrison
would, in July 1814 in Macau, also become the first European missionary to succeed in converting a
Chinese to the Protestant expression of Christianity. See Latourette, A History of Christian Missions,
pp. 211-215, and also Murray A. Rubinstein, The Origins of the Anglo-American Missionary Enterprise
in China, 1807-1840, Lanham / Maryland and London: Scarecrow Press 1996, pp. 75-164. Interesting
insight into the background of Morrison’s mission can be found in the contemporary publication by
William Willis Moseley, The Origins of the First Protestant Mission to China and History of the
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protection against foreign intrusion. Christians, during the early Jiaqing reign period,
were now also regarded as “traitors”, who sacrificed their loyalty to the dynasty
(zhong ) in order to egoistically further the cause of their religious affiliation.36 By
implication, this accusation indicates that Chinese Christianity by the turn of the
century was regarded as an entirely endogenous phenomenon, and that links between
Christian “heretics” and foreign elements were to be seen as having a merely
aggravating effect on the situation. The contrast with the earlier period becomes clear
when comparing this new role with the interpretation of the prosecuting officials in
the above case against the Portuguese missionaries, one generation earlier: Although
the involvement of foreigners was regarded as “illegal“” (bufa qingshi ),
it did not yet constitute an act of treason. This distinction is underlined by the wording
of a memorial drafted in 1767, already twenty years prior to Macartney's visit, about
local Christian support for “foreign Christians”.37 The memorial clearly links the
presence of the foreign missionaries to the welcoming attitude of the Chinese
Christians. The Christians had “invited” the foreigners into Guangdong, in order to
Events which Induced the Attempt and Succeded in the Accomplishment of a Translation of the Holy
Scriptures into the Chinese Language ..., London: Simpkin and Marshall 1842.
36 Amendments to the imperial law code (Daqing lüli ) at the very beginning of the
nineteenth century had the effect of interpreting all new non-Confucian movements as “heretical”, thus
authorising legal action against the followers and missionaries of such religious movements. Whether
Christianity was included is unclear, since it was hardly “new” to China. The Propaganda report on the
state of the China mission is filed as APF SOCP, Indie Orientali, 1817, ff. 12-13. The state’s attempts
to reinstate law and order are expressed in the Jiaqing emperor’s edict of 21 August 1805, in the
aftermath of the Adeodato case: “At the same time the people shall be informed by public proclamation
that the laws forbidding the European heretical religion are extremely severe. .... The Viceroy and the
Governor (in Canton) shall take adequate measures to effectively control [all foreigners], which may
lead to the extermination of evil, root and stem; thus they shall keep the path straight, which, moreover,
is the most important part of their task in correcting and ruling the manners and customs.”


The edict is also referred to in de Groot, Sectarianism and Religious Persecution, p. 398.
37 Memorial by Wu Shaoshi , FHA, scroll 9258, document number 492, sub-number 14,
frames 318-320, dated QL 32/8/20 (3 September 1767). The memorial is entitled “Memorial also
concerning the investigation of Christianity” (), clearly citing collusion
with foreigners as the main offence. The origin of the foreigners is unclear. In an accompanying report,
dated QL 32/8/26 (18 September 1767) they are collectively referred to as "Europeans" (ouluoba-guo
ren ).
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spread Christianity in the province (
). The ensuing investigation produced the habitual evidence:
“Pamphlets”, “rosaries”, “pictures and statues”. One commoner Liu had a crucifix
hanging on the walls of his home, and the existence of a “hall for performing rites and
worship
and
for
reading
the
scriptures“”
(dianli-baiye-jingyue
tang
) was disclosed - years after such places of worship had been
ordered to be burnt to the ground by the provincial governor Li Yuanping .
Increasingly on the defensive against perceived menaces to the Pax Manchurica, the
Qing now became openly hostile to visits by foreign individuals. A memorial sent to
the Grand State Council in the year 1777 illustrates the heightening tension
characterising the relationship between the Qing state and foreign nationals.38
Enumerating their names, the memorial decries the increasing infiltration of foreign
nationals (“alien eyes”, yimu ) into the market towns and villages of
Guangdong province - Xiangshan district in particular. With the clear intention
of sounding alarm bells in Beijing, the former governor described the typical route for
gaining access to the Chinese interior: A foreign vessel would bring the Europeans (in
this case from a country referred to as fujijiya-guo ) to Macau,
whence foreign traders would accompany them into the market places of Guangdong.
Missionaries would then advance further with the help of Qing subjects - an offence
described by the official as “intercourse and connivance with Chinese traitors” (yu
hanjian wanglai, ganjie). These contacts, we learn, were
sometimes directly organised by Christians in the capital - a discovery which put the
The memorial (zi ) was sent by the former governor-general of the Guangdong-Guangxi doubleprovince, Li Xinbo . The memorial is dated QL 41/12/18, i.e. 26 January 1777, and can be
found in the FHA as scroll 9258, document 492, sub-number 21, frames 345-353.
38
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Chinese Christians in Beijing increasingly at risk.39 The case was later retrieved from
the administrative files, when in 1782 (QL 47) the same Wang Dahong returned with
another European, Duoluomajinuo , in order to rebuild contacts with
the Chinese church. The governor-general of the double-province, Tangjueluoba
, responded by arresting a whole string of Chinese traders, known to
have been in frequent contact with Western merchants, in order to extract
information.40 In December 1784, the provincial government of Guangdong reported
the detention of two young Westerners, who had disembarked with the intention of
reaching the imperial capital Beijing. The young men were named as Tang Shixuan
, 32 years of age, followed by a Liu Siyong , almost ten years
Tang's junior. The main reason given for their journey to Beijing was rumours of the
diminishing presence of foreign missionaries in the Chinese capital.41 Raids on
Christian communities, with or without public churches, in the vicinity of the Beijing
municipality, intensified during the last two decades of the eighteenth century. As a
reaction to news of illegally arriving European missionaries, the state showed nervous
sensitivity to any report of public, non-concealed displays of Christianity. A couple of
39 Thus we learn of a Wang Dahong , Deng Leisi  and Xi
DaomingF
 urthermore of a Ai Qimeng , Gao Shensi , An
Guoning, a Ximoliedi, Mofeihua , and a Weiliduo.
Their Chinese counterpart was a certain Chen Guangshun, referred to as “the traitor”. The
term hanjian , should however not be read with the eyes of a 20th century historian. Instead of
“being a traitor to the Han people”, the term here suggests a rather scornful reference to a “nefarious
element from among the Han”, jian here implying dishonesty and lack of loyalty.
40 See the memorial by Tangjueluoba to the Grand State Council, FHA, scroll 9258, original document
492, sub-number 24, frames 359-364, dated QL 47/2/26 (8/4/1782).
41 "It had become known that the number of Western people in the capital has been in the process of
diminishing. ... One Westerner has been named as Tang Shixuan, 32 years of age, with knowledge of
astronomy, and his disciple Liu Siyong, 23, is apt at astronomy and painting.”

 See the

memorial by the circuit official for Guangdong, Sun Shiyi , composed in QL 49/10/22, i.e. 4
December 1784. The memorial is preserved as FHA, scroll 9258, original document 492, sub-number
23, frames 357-358. “Tang Shixian” is nobody else than Alexandre de Gouvea, whereas the identity of
the other person could not be identified.
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memorials issued in 1785 on the discovery of churches (tianzhutang ) in the
Zhili districts of Daxing and Wanping underline this observation.42
Having identified the two commoners Liu Duomo and Liu Leisi
as the ringleaders, the officials proclaimed the arrest of the culprits and the
destruction of cultic objects discovered during the operation. As if to confirm the
suspicions harboured against migrating labourers, the two sectarian leaders were
natives of Zhuozhou , Zhili, who had entered the area as hired hands. The
consequences of the gradual increase in Western involvement after the turn of the
century would be even more severe.
In part, the increasingly defensive attitude of the Qing state can be explained through the
gradual reimmersion of foreigners into the empire. In the language of imperial documents,
the term “Doctrine of the Lord of Heaven” , which had been used for the
Christian religion since the introduction of the term by the first Jesuit priests, was being
replaced by “Western Religion” . Though chiefly used to express disapproval
relating to the non-indigenous characteristics of Christianity, the designation as an “alien”
element was also in reaction to the increasing proselytisation effort by foreigners after 1800.
The attempt by the two Lazarists priests Richenet and Dumazel to travel in June 1805 from
their interim base in Shandong province to the imperial capital can be taken as evidence of
this new missionary effort. The two Frenchmen had agreed to risk detention because of the
increasing difficulties for the Christian mission in the old congregations of Beijing. At the
same time, they took heart from the strengthening of commercial ties between China and
Europe, and from reports of resurgent Christian communities in the interior of the Qing
empire. These new missionaries either disregarded the threat of punishment, or were simply
Both districts are located in Shuntian-fu , Zhili province. The memorials are dated QL
49/11/24 (4 January 1785) and 49/11/28 (8 January 1785), respectively. See FHA, scroll 9258, original
42
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unaware of the legal situation in the Qing empire. Richenet and Dumazel were eventually
arrested at the provincial border between Shandong and Zhili, with the laconic remark that
“there were already enough mathematicians in Beijing”.43 Another case in point was the
Franciscan Giovanni Lantrua, whose disregard for the perils of the latter Jiaqing period led
to his capture in the winter of 1812 whilst engaged in missionary work in the Jiangnan area.
The memorial referring to his arrest stressed the importance Qing officials now attached to
preventing foreigners from mingling with Chinese subjects:
Recently, the provincial governor Weng Yuanqi obtained information
on the arrest of the Westerner Lan Yuewang in Leiyang District, Hunan
for reasons of creating converts and propagating his beliefs. An imperial
decree received [states]: ‘A certain Lan Yuewang channelled foreigners
from the West into the interior, travelling over long distances through
several provinces, creating converts and spreading his religion, deceiving
many of them. This represents the peak of lawlessness. Weng Yuanqi shall
interrogate this person with severity and, following the investigation, he
shall condemn the culprit to be strangled. Following the proceedings and
their execution, he shall report to the Throne. Offenders mentioned in the
confession shall be individually investigated and arrested. Moreover,
despatches shall be sent out as fast as possible to all affected provinces,
for the rigorous arrest, examination and prosecution of such people
elsewhere. The district magistrate of Leiyang district, Chang Qing, shall
be thorough in his investigations and arrests. Once completed, all lawsuits
shall be sent to the Board [of Punishment] for inspection, for repeated
imperial approval.44
document 493, sub-numbers 35 and 36, frames 393-396. The reporting officials are Cao Wenzhi
, Wu Mingqiu  and Liu E .
43 ... parce qu’on a reconnu qu’il y avoit déjà trop de mathematiciens à Pékin. Cf. the abovementioned letter by Denis Chaumont to Boiret, sent from London on 26 October 1806, and kept at the
APF as document SC, series III, Cina et Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, folium 167 R.
44
The memorial is recorded in Wang Zhichun, Qingchao rouyuanji , p.
167

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The officials accepted the suggested punishment and had Lantrua executed
through strangulation in Changsha, Hunan in January 1816.45 The increasing
xenophobia of Chinese officials produced, at times, unintended consequences. A
memorial of the year 1812 stated in all clarity that an Indian traveller from Calcutta,
who had been captured together with a Chinese interpreter in Tibet “both in his face
and in his general appearance resembled a European, ... a Christian using the worship
of Buddha as a pretext for spreading his religion in secret”.46 Officials, who in their
ignorance confounded Chinese Christianity with other popular religious movements
were now prone to amalgamate all arrivals from beyond the Qing borders in one broad
category of foreign missionary activity. The tone was set for the conflicts of the
Opium War period.
What lessons can we draw from the documentation presented in the third part?
The testimony clearly outlines three developments which shaped the development of
the relationship between state and Christian communities during the eighteenth
century: It firstly links the punitive action by the state prosecutors with the Yongzheng



Author’s own translation, with de Groot’s
translation of a similar memorial used for comparison (see next footnote).
45 De Groot, however, identifies “Lan Yuewang” as the French Franciscan Jean de Triora, garrotted
shortly after Lantrua on 19 February 1816. See de Groot, Sectarianism and Religious Persecution, p.
480, which contains a cross-reference to the Annales de la Foi (1829), p. 132. De Groot’s text also
differs slightly from the version of the decree preserved in Zhao Chunchen’s edition. It is dated JQ
21/1/23 (19 February 1816), whereas Zhao Chunchen cites the “tenth winter month” () of
the preceding year (i.e. December 1815).
46

 For the memorial by Yang Chun  on the arrest
of the Calcuttan “Malin”, see De Groot, Sectarianism and Religious Persecution, p. 401
(original text preserved in the Shengxun, volume 100).
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edict against missionary activity. The foreigners thus did not stand accused of
infiltrating the Qing empire as representatives of alien, hostile forces. The wording of
the legal material, on the contrary, indicates that the foreigners were to be treated on
an equal footing with the Chinese defendants. The material secondly illustrates that
the (indigenous) China mission of the mid-eighteenth century was surviving on the
basis of the personal network established between Christian families and villages
throughout southern China - in particular between the old Christian heartland around
Nanjing and the provinces of Fujian and Guangdong. Most importantly, the Qing
feared a loss of control over the countryside, both ideologically against “heresy” and
“superstition”, and in terms of military control. The threat of rural insurrection seemed
compounded by the state's inability to guarantee the ideological purity of its own
armed forces: How could Bannermen who had themselves fallen prey to “heresy” be
trusted to wage war against sectarian uprising? Foreigners were a further destabilising
aspect of this phenomenon, but due to their minute presence in the empire (even
including the capital area and Macau) the real threat emanated from a religious
environment below district level, where loyalties were primarily with religious leaders
and their ancestors, and not with the ruling dynasty. In the hierarchy of official
concern, the Western waidiren were not more or less unsettling than those from
neighbouring Chinese provinces. Converts were nevertheless held responsible for
following a prohibited sect “without signs of remorse”, but also of “inducing aliens to
secretly enter the hinterland”.47 As a matter of agency, it was clearly the local
Christian population who planned and enacted activities regarded as “destabilising” by
the imperial administration. Against this background, Western missionaries were
47 - a standard accusations which can be found in
almost any official document commenting on foreign involvement during the late eighteenth century.
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passive participants rather than actors, following their vocation wherever the local
Christian network permitted it. Few in number, easily detected and only rarely
sojourning longer than for brief visits, European missionaries were very nearly a nonexistent at the end of the eighteenth century. Rather than constituting a genuine threat,
it was their perception as an aggravating factor in a countryside already plagued by
“heresy” which caused the authorities to act.
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Part IV - Conclusion: Christianity as popular Chinese religion
Chapter 11: Who is the “Chinese Christian”?
1. Class, gender, literacy
This study began with an attempt to define the quality of religious life during
the late imperial period. Key elements included attitudes towards moral rectitude and
punishment for transgressing socio-religious norms, elements of metaphysical belief
and materialism, as well as the rituals marking the cardinal stages of life. One of the
principal conclusions of this thesis is that the message conveyed by the missionaries
from Europe was instantaneously “translated” - i.e. integrated into a pre-existing
linguistic and intellectual matrix - by the new converts.1 This “translation” occurred
even when the linguistic quality of the translated message was in itself impeccable. A
factor potentially more divisive than language was present in the respective cultural
backgrounds of priest and convert, internalised through oral tradition and, at least for
the more privileged, absorbed through formal education. Such educational factors
helped overcome the cultural differences between civilisations: Jesuit scholar-priests
in general conferred with Chinese scholar-officials more confidently than they would
have done with peasants from Christian Europe. To the prospective scholar-official
convert, the most important criterion was the perceived compatibility between NeoConfucian rites and the concepts propagated by the missionaries.2 At the same time,
1
The problem of “translation” can also arise within a specific language community, if concepts are
transferred from one set of religious beliefs into a separate conceptual framework. In the case of late
imperial China, Daoism had absorbed many Buddhist concepts - despite Buddhism’s “foreign roots”.
The issue of “linguistic hybridisation” is referred to in the article by Chinfa Lien “Language Adaptation
and Taoist Liturgical Texts”, in: D. Johnson (ed.), Ritual and Scripture, pp. 219-246. The Japanese
case is analysed in Stefan Kaiser, “Translations of Christian Terminology into Japanese, 16-19th
Centuries: Problems and Solutions”, in: Breen and Williams (eds), Japan and Christianity 1996, pp. 829 (in particular pp. 24-26, on the role of Chinese translations imported into Japan).
2 Cf. Lionel M. Jensen, Manufacturing Confucianism, chapter 1.
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mendicant orders from southern Europe had considerable appeal among the
uneducated peasants and fishing communities of the Chinese coastal provinces.3
After the very moment of transmission, the Christian message itself had to be
further clarified by the priest and its implementation monitored carefully. In this
context, one of the most important impediments to the conversion - and retention - of
wealthier members of Chinese society was the missionaries’ emphasis on monogamy.
The issue arose early in the proselytisation of Christianity in China, and is well
documented in Ming elite discourse.4 Used to parentally assigned nuptial partners, the
idea of a marital sacrament thus held little appeal even among the more orthodox
members of the Church. Polygamy and institutionalised prostitution thus continued to
exist throughout the first phase of the China mission. The refusal to baptise men who
were loth to abandon the habit of concubinage often turned these into sworn enemies
of the new faith, having been denied the prospect of eternal life for what must have
been regarded as an ancestral right.5 Female Christians developed different reactions,
from consenting submission to parental will, and from the consciously monogamous
betrothal to a fellow Christian to the outright refusal to marry (and the Christian
sororities).6 In eighteenth century China, extensive family networks provided the basis
for a “natural” proliferation of Christianity. The sources used for this thesis clearly
indicate that even the more remote descendants of converts referred to themselves as
“Christians”, even when tortured. While Chinese peasants and scholar-officials alike
would have welcomed the notion of a self-perpetuating network of family-based
3
See Giacomo di Fiore, Lettere di Missionari dalla Cina, pp. 94-95.
Cf. Jacques Gernet, "Gli ambienti intellettuali cinesi all'epoca del Ricci", in: Atti del convegno
internazzionale di studi Ricciani, Macerata 1984, pp. 101-120.
5 Cf. Robert Entenmann, “The Establishment of Chinese Catholic Communities”, p. 148 ff.
6 The life of Candida Xu  (1607-1680) member of the Xu clan in the Jiangnan and
granddaughter of Xu Guangqi, has been held up as an example of a “successfully reformed” marriage
4
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Christianity, the European missionaries, at least in public, emphasised the spiritual
qualitas of the individual.7
Textual debate provided the raison d’être for the literati class. To the
peasantry, taking account of all its diversity, the written word mattered to a lesser
degree than within educated circles.8 Religious pamphlets were popular due to
symbolic value rather than to mere doctrinal content. The salvational aspect of
religious texts lay less in detailed exegesis than in the firm belief in, as well as the
constant recitation, of their contents.9 During the seventeenth century in particular, the
emphasis of baojuan writing would shift towards ritual aspects of popular Buddhism
and practical concerns of believers.10 In parallel fashion, Christian believers petitioned
their own saints and meditated by using the outward symbols of their faith, in keeping
with pre-existing traditions of worship, rather than invoking a conscious doctrinal
discourse. To the women who prayed to the Virgin Mother of Yesu Jidu for children, a
plentiful harvest and lenient husbands, the pragmatic purpose of the prayer overrode
the precise definition of the addressed deity. Rather than deliberating the philosophical
junctures of Christianity and philosophical traditions, the general population was more
immediately concerned with aspects that seemed to compromise their inveterate
beliefs relating to work, ancestry and filiality.
pattern among the members of the converted elite. For more details, see Gail King “Candida Xu”, pp.
49-66.
7 This has remained the official position of the Catholic church. See Fiona Bowie, “The Inculturation
Debate in Africa”, pp. 85-86.
8 Village schools, where extant, relied on Confucian primers, such as the Three Character Classic
(Sanzijing ) in order to disseminate literacy. Rote-learning and repeated recitation by literate
elders ensured that Confucian maxims were known at least to a certain extent. Western missionaries
would later emulate this method for the propagation of Christian values. See, for the nineteenth century,
Evelyn Rawski, “Elementary Education in the Mission Enterprise”, in: Barnett and Fairbank,
Christianity in China, pp. 142-152.
9 See D. Overmyer, Precious Volumes, pp. 22-23.
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2. Ancestors and filial sons - The dilemma of socio-religious identity
The Confucian notion of “filiality” (xiao ), i.e. ritualised respect for one’s
ancestry, provided a paramount incentive for the perpetuation of the Chinese family
cult. Rather than expressing the religious beliefs of individual adherents, the existence
of religious traditions passed down from parent to child has to be seen as an act of
social self-definition. A family in its third generation of professed Christianity had
created strong cultic parameters for defining its collective identity, both within the
greater family and within society at large. In daily practice, however, most of its social
and cultural features, however, would have been shared by the rest of village society.
The precise degree of overlap was determined by local conditions: Whereas some
families preferred to form tight-knit communities visibly segregated from their nonChristian neighbours, others remained integrated into the larger social entity. These
tendencies were not unique to Christianity, but represented patterns of social
integration or segregation experienced by other religious movements during the late
imperial period.11
The evidence examined in the first part of this thesis suggests that a genuine
paradox existed: On the one hand, we find reports of Christians who lived actively
within their non-Christian society and who expressed dismay at the idea that they were
part of a “heretical” movement. In a letter by Emmanuele Conforti, for instance,
written in 1801 during his Apostolic Visitation of Shanxi, we hear of Christian
families urging the visitor to formally sanction their participation in a certain local
custom which had been condemned by earlier priests as constituting usury. Conforti
was so impressed by the importance the Christians attached to being integrated into
Such as inner alchemy, divine assistance through prayer and the nature of purgatory (diyu , or
“hell”). Ibidem, pp. 230-247.
10
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the local traditions that he requested an investigation by the Propaganda officials in
Rome.12 On the other hand, several documents used provide evidence of intercommunal conflict, where Christian families - in particular in small kinship-defined
village structures - created their own sphere in order to set themselves apart from the
non-Christian “other”. The missionary correspondence from the period covered by this
thesis reveals an even split between both types of rural Christians, ranging from
despairing reports of engrained “uncontrollable habits” pre-dating Christianity to
letters underlining the “purity” of the believers’ faith and their full compliance with
Christian ethics.
3. The Christian paradox
On the second day of month five of the tenth year in the Jiaqing era (30 May
1805), the adolescent Huan Yang innocently revealed his knowledge of Christianity to
the yamen officials investigating the whereabouts of fugitive Christian “criminals”.
Most of the boy’s statements matched the vagueness encountered in the testimonies
used for this thesis. The one fragment which stood out from his other recollections of
the Christian faith was the Christians’ belief in a “judgement after death through
[God’s] right hand, the sun being to his left” ().13
Akin to the two generations of Chinese Christians before Huan Yang, the theological
causation for “Christian” ritual and identity had faded away. Anecdotal interpretations
11
See Susan Naquin, “Connections between Rebellions”, pp. 337-340.
Conforti refers to the custom as the contratto Yao hoeí, popular in the Lugan-fu area, “a certain way
of betting money in the hope of winning a cash prize”. The term probably relates to the characters
, i.e. an “invitation to join in”. Would Christians want to be regarded as spoilsports, by refusing
to “join in”? Cf. APF SC, Indie Orientali/Cina, 1806-1811, folia 24-25. See B. Willeke, “The Report of
the Apostolic Visitation”, p. 262. The “Report” contains a highly graphic account of the practice, which
could involve great sums of money.
12
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of Christian concepts had replaced the original missionary message. Paraphernalia
such as the crucifix, rosary and scrolls of sacred writings had been transformed from
mere symbols of the Christian cult to its object. The memorisation of mysterious texts
and preservation of tangible symbols bequeathed by the Christian founding fathers
constituted, by the outset of the nineteenth century, the very essence of popular
Christianity. This phenomenon was in fact a reflection of a wider process within the
popular religious landscape of late imperial China. By the middle of the eighteenth
century, Confucianism had long since undergone a process of syncretisation, accepting
and redefining traditions emanating from the literati elite to the rural masses. Despite
their profound insight into Chinese civilisation, the missionaries from Europe proved
unable to overcome their own cultural inhibitions, mainly imposed by monotheism
and denominational exclusivism, causing the subtleties of mid-Qing Confucianism to
be crushed under the dichotomy of (idealised) Confucianism and (“diabolical”)
Buddhism. Some Confucians were certainly flattered by this unabashed defence of the
Confucian system.14 Others were impressed by the philosophical and scientific
erudition of their Western colleagues. But on the whole, the missionaries were
unaware of the fact that in popular religious life Confucian, Daoist and Buddhist
traditions had become part of a tricameral religious edifice.
The European missionaries who entered China after the international situation
had turned against the Qing administration, did not approve of - and frequently not
recognise - China’s inculturated Christians. A letter of 1806, sent by the bishop of
13
See FHA, scroll 9258, original document 493, sub-number 38. For more insight into the actions of
the investigating official, De Lengtai , against the White Lotus around the year 1800, see de
Groot, Sectarianism and Religious Persecution, p. 361.
14 It is also known that the literatus Yuan Mei  was acquainted with at least some of the ideas of
the Jesuit court missionaries. This was due in particular to the Manchurian aristocrat and official Depei,
probably converted around 1718 by Ignatius Kögler. For possible evidence revealing the poet’s
familiarity with some of the principles of Christianity, see Waley, Yuan Mei, pp. 31-32.
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Macau illustrates this observation: Two young European missionaries are praised for
attempting to reinvigorate the China mission. Enthusiastic in their vocation, the
missionaries showed little tolerance towards deviations from Catholic orthodoxy.
Whenever the two ardent Christians encountered such “old Christians” in the province
of Guangdong, the missionary flock would be “piously instructed, their hearts opened
up, their awareness enlightened in order to experience the truth, to abandon erroneous
thinking and to worship God and the commandments above all and with all one’s
energy....”.15
Short of surrendering their individual orthodoxies, all component members
participated in the mutual exchange of saints, symbols and ritual language. Also
Confucianism, though principally immune to transcendental predilections, absorbed
certain religious elements. More importantly, the Confucian crusade, which had begun
during the early Song period, had left an indelible imprint on the popular religions of
the eighteenth century. Accustomed to the borrowing of elements originally pertaining
to other religious and philosophical traditions, the population of the Qing empire
embraced Christianity with the same curiosity which would have been extended
towards any of the other cults circulating through the Chinese countryside. The
documents consulted for this thesis demonstrate that Christianity, introduced by
missionaries in its Tridentine orthodoxy and in literary Chinese language, did not
escape the tendency towards popularisation - much to the chagrin of the European
15
The quote is excerpted from a letter by Goldino and refers to the missionaries Michele Siè and
Raffaele Ijon. Cf. APF source SOCP, Indie Orientali, 1817, folium 37 R. The text in the original: ... per
propagare la vera Religione di Dio nella provincia di Cantone, insegnare pietosamente ai popoli,
aprir loro i cuori, illuminare il loro intendimento perchè sappiano conoscere la verità, abandonar
l’errore, adorare l’Iddio sopra tutte le cose, e perchè tutti osservino i Commandamenti del Signore, e
lo servano con tutte le forze, e adempiano agli obblighi e preatti della legge in considerazione alfine
externo.
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missionaries.16 Facilitated by perceived similarities between Christian concepts and
elements of Chinese religious tradition, the descendants of first-generation converts
adapted the fragments of the original missionary message to the spiritual and cultic
cosmos of their village environment. Former adherents of popular Buddhist and
Daoist movements, however, usually resisted attempts to eradicate past paganisms.
Frequently having been baptised as part of mass evangelisations, such converts
amalgamated new Christian concepts with the concepts of their former beliefs, to an
extent that even “the foreign priests could not agree whether the converts ... were
sincere believers or 'false' Christians”.17 Rural Christianity had thus shed most of its
spiritual content in order to become a “hereditary” denominator of ancestral - hence
social - identity. More than one hundred years after the Yongzheng edict of 1724,
Chinese syncretism had thus engendered a uniquely Chinese expression of
Christianity, perpetuated by commoners such as little Huan Yang.18
16
An early example of inculturation is reported in a letter from the year 1734, mentioning a “false sect”
in Shandong and Henan. See the letter to P. Souciet, St Petersburg (23-7-1734), in: Renée Simon (ed.),
Le P. Antoine Gaubil, p. 382.
17 R. G. Tiedemann, “Christianity and Chinese ‘Heterodox Sects’”, p. 370. This observation coincides
with the pattern of Christianity’s expansion into the diverse popular traditions of European and Middle
Eastern antiquity - Christianity’s first inculturation.
18 Ever in flux, Christianity is never “final”, but dependant on the constant reinterpretation by
contemporary society. See X. Wang, Christianity and Imperial Culture, pp. 226-230.
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Chapter 12: Epilogue - Chinese Christianity into the Third Millennium
1. Heterodoxy in a new age
The millenarian tendencies of the eighteenth century continued throughout the
nineteenth century and well into the twentieth. Surrogate brotherhoods and ancient
rituals, such as the sharing of blood from ritually slaughtered animals, cemented
emotional ties of fellow destiny. Sectarian leaders encouraged the creation of
personality cults, leading to an illusion of common ancestry among the rootless, yet
devoted disciples. Almost impossible to police, their development was observed with
great anxiety by the Qing authorities.1 The local, non-migratory populations were not
unaffected by such intensification of migrant religiosity: During the latter part of the
eighteenth century, local cults honouring local deities experienced a mass following
rivalling that of Buddhist millenarianism. In particular along the coast line, from
Guangdong over Fujian into the Jiangnan, cults for gods of the seas and waterways
spread along with their professional clientele: Fishermen, boatpullers and freight
shippers.2 Such cults were increasingly used as markers of distinct ethno-regional
identity, in particular in regions where large-scale immigration had upset the
established balance. Typically, this occurred where immigrant communities such as
the Hakka and Chaozhou dialect speakers competed for land and commerce with the
indigenous population (pun-ti or bendi ). Reestablished by new generations of
missionaries, Christianity was often particularly successful with marginalised
1 See Robert J. Anthony, “Brotherhoods and the Law in Qing Dynasty China”, in: David Ownby and
Mary Somers Heidhues, Secret Societies Reconsidered - Perspectives on the Social History of Modern
South China and South East Asia, Armonk / London: M. E. Sharpe 1993, pp. 190-211 for the legal
counter-measures created by the state in order to defuse the problem.
2 See James L. Watson, “Standardizing the Gods: The Promotion of T’ien Hou (‘Empress of Heaven’)
along the South China Coast, 960-1960”, in: D. Johnson, E. Rawski, A. Nathan (eds), Popular Culture
in Late Imperial China, pp. 292-324, as well as Paul R. Katz, Demon Hordes and Burning Boats: The
Cult of Marshal Wen in Late Imperial Chekiang, New York: SUNY Press 1995.
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communities eager to establish links of common identity, and with strong outsiders.
Christianity, by being increasingly drawn into local disputes, thus developed a
markedly localised identity during the nineteenth century.3
Whereas such localised expressions of Christianity during the nineteenth
century continued to develop under the observant eyes of Western missionaries, a
truly syncretic popular movement developed with the Taiping state. Synthesising
Confucian and Christian concepts, its emperor and spiritual leader Hong
Xiuquancreated an extended family network for his elder brother Jesus. Since Jesus
was unwed, Hong Xiuquan regarded it as his filial duty to provide the Celestial Father
with a male heir. The propagation of such traditional social morality were greeted by
the populace with enthusiasm.4
To the European missionaries who arrived in the aftermath of the Opium War
the variety of heterodox religious movements was confusing. It thus comes as no
surprise to read reports of missionary disbelief when faced with surviving
communities of “old Christians”. Constituting little more than “sectarians” who had
been exposed to Christian teachings, the group would still be targeted more than one
generation later by Western missionaries.5 The time had come for them to join
“China’s return to the Lord” (zhonghua gui zhu ). Many of the
converts produced in the wake of the Opium War had also been “head-hunted” from
3 The recently completed PhD thesis by Dr Joseph Tse-Hei Lee (SOAS) has revealed the extent to
which the dynamics of Christian inculturation - as well as of political loyalties - in southern Guangdong
coincided and strengthened local identities in the 19th and 20 centuries. See Joseph Tse-Hei Lee,
“Conversion or Protection? Collective Violence and Christian Movements in Late Nineteenth Century
Chaozhou”, PhD thesis: University of London 2000.
4 This is at least the opinion of the Taiping historian Wang Qingcheng ; see his Tianfu
tianxiong shengzhi, p. 18. For further insight, see Hou Jie and Fan Lizhu, Zhongguo minzhong zongjiao
yishi, pp. 297-298.
5 Cf. R. G. Tiedemann, “Christianity and Chinese ‘Heterodox Sects’”, p. 379.
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other religious movements, a fact that would occasionally lead to an open contest for
religious believers.6
Research into the religious patterns of social formations in the past lacks the
option of direct observation, so common in anthropological and sociological research.
The pervasive illiteracy among the general populace moreover forces the historical
eye to focus on official documents, such as conversations noted down during
interrogations with officials. During this process, the original information is invariably
transformed into the thoughts and feelings of the reporting individual by means of a
standardising matrix of accepted interpretation. It follows that regardless of the
intention or awareness of the rapporteur, be this the local yamen official or a visiting
European missionary, the original information is distorted, thus becoming the subject
matter of careful interpretation for the historian. Despite the shortcomings of having
to rely on official documents and missionary correspondence, the sources used for this
thesis revealed interesting parallels between popular notions of Christianity in preindustrial Europe and certain religious and ritual traditions of rural China. Links
between these two remote civilisations become obvious when the statements obtained
from members of the peasantry are compared with our knowledge of mediaeval
Western folklore and superstition.7 It is rather likely that the eighteenth century
visitors from Europe were all too aware of the “menace” emanating from popular
religious thought - an enemy which had imperilled centuries of missionary work in
6
See Daniel H. Bays, “Christianity and the Chinese Sectarian Tradition”, pp. 45 and 49 (referring to
the Caihui  riots in Gutian, Fujian province of 1895; his comments are based on Mary Backus
Rankin, “The Ku-t’ien Incident (1895): Christians versus the Ts’ai-hui”, in: Papers on China, 15
(1960), pp. 30-61.)
7 My own observations largely confirm the general survey into popular Chinese religion by Hans Küng
and Julia Jing. See Hans Küng and Julia Ching, Christianity and Chinese Religions, pp. 4-6, 154-155
and 215-216. See also Carlo Ginzburg, Ecstasies, pp. 89-121 (also the map on pp. 98-99) for
“superstitious” interfaces of Christianity and pre-Christian beliefs in the European peasant tradition. A
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occidental Christendom. Letters sent to the Vatican were hence unlikely to emphasise
the degree to which Chinese Christianity had become “inculturated”, lest the China
and India mission - begotten out of the Catholic counter-reformation - face
obliteration. In a similar vein, reports by the agents of the Qing empire could hardly be
anything but scathing in their treatment of popular religious movements. This owed as
much to the probable effects of deviation from the Confucian orthodoxy as to the
automatic reproduction of official prejudice against intellectual threats to the
supremacy of the state and of its ideological integrity. The actual numbers of
followers of illegal movements was of little direct relevance; the fact that the
movements rallied and created members in opposition to decrees and statutes was
sufficiently “subversive” to be regarded as an act of treason.
At the very end of this survey, we arrive at a fundamental question: Why does
a phenomenon which only embraced a fraction of the overall population deserve the
attention of the academic public more than two centuries later? The total figure of
“Christians” during the century of prohibition probably never exceeded the three
hundred thousand mark, i.e. at best constituting one tenth of a percent of the total
population.8 Yet, Qing officials expressed an unambiguous fear of an uncontrollable
mass movement which could arise out of the Christian phenomenon. In order to obtain
a representative picture of comparable movements in recent Chinese history, a brief
similar link between the rural traditions of Japan and of the Iberian peninsula is made in S. Turnbull,
Devotion to Mary, p. 16.
8 Missionary reports towards the end of the eighteenth century produce an even lower count. My own
estimate assumes that persons who referred to themselves as Christians, with or without the knowledge /
approval of a foreign missionary, outnumbered “official” Christians by a factor of two, hence doubling
the more conservative estimates. See also E. Malatesta, “China and the Society of Jesus”, p. 6 ff, as well
as figures compiled by Robert Entenmann, based on Charles Legobien, Lettres Édifiantes des missions
de la Chine et des Indes Orientales, 1717-1776, Paris 1818-23 (presented at the International
Convention of Asia Scholars, Noordwijkerhout 1998)
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comparison with the popular religious environment at the close of twentieth century
seems helpful.
2. Maoism, the Three Self and another period of clandestine existence
In the immediate aftermath of the proclamation of the People’s Republic of
China in October 1949, the victorious Communist Party under its chairman Mao
Zedong  implemented a policy of “enforced indigenisation”. The “Three
Self” policy sought to eliminate the remnants of foreign domination on twentieth
century Christianity, the allegation of which had thus tainted the relationship between
the revolutionary government and the Christian churches.9 In order to remain
operational, congregations had to pledge allegiance to the new state, while promising
to sever ties with the former missionary pastors. The officially propagated intention of
the policy was to increase the - political and financial - independence of the Chinese
churches, and hence to emphasise the “religious” nature of Christian congregations,
although one obvious side-aspect was to increase the measure of state control over
religious movements in “New China”.10 Albeit less oppressive than in Stalin’s USSR,
the new religious régime entailed a host of restrictions and recriminations against
Christians, as well as followers of other religious movements. In many cases, the only
alternative to harassment by state officials or life in exile was to congregate secretly,
usually in the homes of fellow believers. During the years of chaos caused by the
Cultural Revolution, the repressive policy was taken one step further. In order to “root
out the old”, Christian churches and Buddhist temples were desecrated and used for
9
See Jean-Paul Wiest, “Learning from the Missionary Past”, in: idem and Tang (eds), The History of
the Catholic Church, p. 189.
10 See C. K. Yang, Religion in Chinese Society, pp. 386-401.
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educational or simply storage purposes.11 In order to fill the void created by the
outright denial of religious tradition, the ruling party attempted to blot out the desire
for the “superstitious” by enlightening the masses through the propagation of science
and political education. The activism of the Chinese Communist Party was based on
the ideas of its ageing chairman Mao Zedong.12 During the Cultural Revolution, the
image of the infallible leader was projected onto his person, mainly in order to silence
the critics of the “revolutionary” disorder. What followed proved to become one of the
most dramatic manifestations of popular religious creativity: Propelled by the state
media and the party apparatus, respect for the Great Helmsman had turned into a cult
of his person.13 His image ever-present, Mao Zedong became the object of daily
veneration - at work, in public spaces, and frequently also at home.14 His death in
1976 came as a tremendous shock to a public whose imagination had rendered Mao
11
The period of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution  is commonly
defined as the “ten bad years” between 1966-1976. In reality, the Cultural Revolution consisted of a
relatively brief period of (near) anarchy and was further characterised by years of stagnation and power
struggles within the CCP. A detailed, condemnatory account of the entire period can be found in Gao
Gao  and Yan Jiaqi , “Wenhua dageming” shinian ,
Tianjin: Tianjin renmin chubanshe  1986. See in particular pp. 186-192 and
495-527 for examples of violence against manifestations of the “old China”. For a recent historical
analysis, see David Pietrusza, The Chinese Cultural Revolution, San Diego: Lucent Books 1996.
12 In itself proof of the force of inculturation; the Judeo-Christian roots of Marxism had been largely
discarded by the Chinese strategist. See Lucien Bianco, Origins of the Chinese Revolution (1915-1949),
1971 for the early development of Mao Zedong’s CCP. Concerning the role of the Bureau of Religious
Affairs, see also K. Dean, Lord of the Three in One, pp. 263-264. For a (“fundamentalist”) Christian
refutation of the deification of Mao Zedong, see Werner Schilling, Das Heil in Rotchina? - Der 'Neue
Mensch' im Maoismus, Bad Liebenzell: Liebenzeller Missionsverlag / Telos 1975, pp. 81-128.
13 The deification actually began with the seeming omnipresence of Mao Zedong (and initially also Zhu
De) during the Jiangxi Soviet, the Yan’an period and in the “Liberated Areas” (jiefangqu )
during the final years of conflict. Thus, Mao Zedong managed to enter the popular picture-text prints
(tuibei tu ) of the 1940s, prophesying China’s salvation by a “king” identified by the
character for ‘hair’ (mao ). See Wolfgang Bauer, Das Bild in der Weissage-Literatur Chinas:
Prophetische Texte im politischen Leben vom Buch der Wandlungen bis zu Mao Tse Tung, Munich:
Hans Moos Verlag 1973, p. 29.
14 Rudolf Wagner refers to the Mao cult of the Cultural Revolution as an example of quasi-religious
devotion, encouraged by the revolutionary state in order to supplant pre-existing religious loyalties.
Student marches (chuanlian ) converging on the centre of the Maoist universe, Tiananmen Gate
(after 1976 the Mao Zedong Memorial Hall) are likened to pilgrimages to sites of religious worship.
See Rudolf G. Wagner, “Reading the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall: The Tribulations of the Implied
Pilgrim”, in: Susan Naquin and Chü-fang Yü (eds), Pilgrims and Sacred Sites, pp. 378-383 and 386399.
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Zedong immortal. Thus it comes as no surprise that after several years of cautious
political liberalisation, during the Deng Xiaoping reform period, the deceased leader
had become part of the popular pantheon: As a patron saint who protects drivers of
taxis and lorries and even as a manifestation of the Buddha.15 The political career of
an atheist activist had thus turned full circle: Having failed to eradicate “superstition”
from the Chinese masses, Mao Zedong had become deified and integrated into the
popular pantheon of the outgoing twentieth century.
From the latter half of the 1980s, local Christian groups which had practised
their faith in hiding during the years of the Cultural Revolution began to congregate in
public.16 Most members of these “house churches” were the descendants of Christians
who had been converted by European missionaries during the nineteenth century.
Contrary to the rulings of the governing party, these independent churches refused to
integrate into the Protestant and Catholic successor churches which had replaced the
foreign orders and societies after 1949. Interestingly, after one generation of
independent development, without direct influence from foreign missionaries, several
of the Christian congregations had developed ritual practices which deviated markedly
from established orthodoxy.17 A notable aspect of their development is the
15
The custom of affixing a picture of Mao Zedong next to the steering wheel originates from a report
of an accident involving a car and a minibus, which occurred in the late 1980s in Guangdong province.
The driver of a car equipped with his “sacred image” survived unscathed, whereas all passengers of the
colliding minibus died. The rumour that Mao had been sighted in Gansu province as a reincarnation of
the Buddha Gautama reached Beijing in the early 1990s. These personal observations tally with those
of Kenneth Dean, who witnessed a procession of several CCP “deities” during the New Year
celebrations in Xianyou, 1995. See K. Dean, Lord of the Three in One, p. 293.
16 The same is of course true for other formerly suppressed religious movements, such as the syncretic
cults of Fujian province. See K. Dean, Lord of the Three in One, pp. 18-19.
17 The following statements are partially based on Jean-Paul Wiest and Edmond Tang (eds), The
Catholic Church in Modern China - Perspectives, Maryknoll / New York: Orbis Books 1993. Wiest’s
depiction of contemporary Catholic Christianity in the PRC, however, is centred on the development of
the official Three Self branch of Catholicism. Jean Charbonnier, “The ‘Underground’ Church”, in:
Wiest and Tang, The Catholic Church in Modern China, pp. 52-70, contains valuable information
concerning the nature and organisation of illegal congregations. It may, however, be helpful to
distinguish between an orthodox underground church - politically independent, yet dogmatically
pursuant to Roman Catholicism or mainstream Protestantism - and genuinely syncretic movements. A
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predominant role women assume as part of the congregation - possibly for the same
reasons as their fellow believers who, two centuries earlier, approached Saint Mary for
miracles concerning motherhood.18 Or maybe simply because in the business-oriented
world of Deng Xiaoping’s China, as around most of the world, men look askance at
the expression of religious sentiment. Nevertheless, men generally monopolise the
senior positions within popular churches and the Three-Self churches alike, and have
become involved in greater numbers since the end of Mao Zedong’s China. By the
end of the 1980s, Christian sects such as the True Jesus Church (Zhen yesu jiaohui
), had proliferated to an extent which caused foreign observers to
refer to the phenomenon as China’s “Christianity fever”. Rural in origin, and usually
dominated by devotional and charismatic expressions of faith, these churches were
quickly branded as “heterodox” by both state and the official clerical order.19 Risking
the wrath of both the established Three-Self clergy and the ever-observant state, these
expressions of religious dissent represent a border-line case between open defiance
and the desire to be recognised as established religious entities. In fact, some of the
earlier formations were quickly rivalled by sects of fundamentalist orientation, such as
the “True True Jesus Church”. During the 1990s, self-appointed populist preachers in
further differentiation between “Christocentric” forms of syncretism and teachings which merely
integrate elements of Christianity into other expressions of folk religion would reveal the full
complexity of the contemporary popular Christianity in China. Most known “heterodox” Christian sects
have so far only been covered by specialist church publications in Hong Kong, such as Tian Feng
, a publication of the Protestant churches in Hong Kong.
18 May M. Cheng estimates that some eighty-five percent of practising Christians in Guangdong
province are women. See her [unpublished] contribution “Christianity Fever: Contagion and Constraint
of a Religious Movement in Contemporary China”, given at a research colloquium organised by the
Overseas Ministries Study Center (Research Enablement Programme), Nashville / Tennessee, August
1996.
19 Indeed, it was stressed that there was no difference between “superstitious cults” of Chinese / Asian
origin and “Christian sects” imported from the United States. Reflecting official opinion, Gu Lieming
, in: “Zhongguo bu rong xiejiao ” (“China will not tolerate heretical
teachings”), in: Minzhu yu fazhi  (“Democracy and Legal System”, Beijing), 4/1996,
pp. 18-20, stated that while China's constitution guaranteed the freedom of religion, “sectarians” had
placed themselves outside any constitutional protection ( “sectarianism is not the
same as religion”). See ibidem, p. 19
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the Chinese hinterland spearheaded an upsurge in popular Christian activity. By
referring to Jesus in demonistic terms as the “King Exorcist”, “Conqueror of Disease”,
“God of Wealth”, and encouraging their spiritual flock to use bibles and crucifixes as
talismans, local congregations defied appeals by both government and officials from
the Three Self churches to return to Christian orthodoxy.20 What the majority of these
“rebel churches” have in common is a “post-denominational” definition of identity,
quite possibly a reflection of the increasing degree of pluralism in Chinese society.21
To speak of a Christianity “fever” as one of the hallmarks of religious life in the 1990s
may indeed be accurate, but would show ignorance of the fact that popular religious
movements had covertly existed in the People’s Republic since its inception, despite
rigorous campaigns by the Communist state. Private reports from the late 1990s
confirm a CCP campaign against a movement in Yunnan referring to itself as the
“White Lotus”. Party officials had been implicated in the movement, which was said
to be strong in the villages of the mountain terrain.22 As if a revival of the White Lotus
was not newsworthy in itself, the year 1999 witnessed the emergence of a Buddhist
mass movement with the name Falun gong  (“Energy of the Wheel of
[Buddhist] Law”).23 A combination of meditative qigong and Buddhist principles, the
20
On the “Christianity Fever” of the Deng Xiaoping era, see Alan Hunter and Chan Kim-Kwong,
“Current Trends in Chinese Protestantism” [Leeds East Asia Papers, number 32], University of Leeds
1996, pp. 1 and 5-7.
21 See the special edition of Bridge / Qiao , LXXV (February 1996), dedicated to the increasing
popularity of the True Jesus Church in the PRC during the 1990s. A parallel development in
contemporary Japan has recently been analysed in Mark R. Mullins, Christianity Made in Japan: A
Study of Indigenous Movements, Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press 1998.
22 I owe this information to a journalist in Hong Kong, reflecting reports of October 1997 in the Hong
Kong press.
23 The eternally turning wheel of the dharma has been a constant theme in popular Buddhist practice.
An opening panel of the fifteenth century “Imperial Ultimate Book” (Huangji baojuan )
begins with the words: “May the sun of the Buddha increase in its brilliance; May the wheel of the
Dharma always turn.” See Overmyer, Precious Volumes, p. 51 ff. The ideas of the Falungong founder
Li Hongzhi are set out in Falun xiulian dafa  (“Practising the Wheel of Law as a
martial art”), Beijing: Zhongguo guangbo-dianshi chubanshe (“Chinese Radio and Television
Publishing House”) 1995, in particular chapter I.7 on the place of the movement between orthodoxy
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movement currently attracts some two million adherents.24 This may constitute a
numerically negligible amount, but produced a stern response by state officials and the
official media - in particular after the peaceful mass protest in front of the
headquarters of the CCP in June 1999.25 The acute reaction by the state to such a
relatively small movement indicates that similar movements during the late imperial
period were seen as equally threatening to public order. The vocabulary employed by
the state officials at the close of the twentieth century was indeed reminiscent of the
terminology introduced in this thesis: Followers are branded “completely wrong” and
“politically motivated”, modern equivalents of “heretical” and “subversive”; the
leadership of the cult, under the spiritual guidance of Li Hongzhi, stands accused of
“deceiving the ignorant masses” into a superstitious belief.26 An equally striking
parallel can be found in the stringent prohibition imposed on Party members and state
officials. The attack against corrosion from within the established order resembles the
terror meted out against representatives of the Qing elite during the eighteenth
century, in particular against members of the Manchurian Banner clans.
and heresy. See also Zhuan Falun  (“On the Wheel of Law”), Hong Kong: Falun Fofa
chubanshe  [1998].
24 The sectarian leadership itself claimed a global adherence of around one hundred million; see The
Economist, 31 July 1999, pp. 60-61. For comparative purposes, the peak of Christian conversion was
reached in the 1920s with just under three million “official” converts. See K. S. Latourette, A History of
Christian Missions, p. 5, for figures on 1920s Christianity. Statistics based on the (Protestant) China
Year Book and the Catholic church put the total number of all officially registered Christians during the
period 1935-1941 at just under four million. See C. Cary-Elwes, China and the Cross, pp. 292-295.
25 Most comprehensively to date in the publication Li Hongzhi and his “Falun Gong” - Deceiving the
Public and Ruining Lives, edited by Ji Shi and published in Beijing by New Star Publishers
in 1999 (English translation of: Qishihairende li hongzhi jiqi “falungong”
). The language used by the author reflects
that of the Communist government, which in turn is reminiscent of the late imperial hunt against
“heresy”. The editors make ample use of gruesome depictions (written and photographic) of the
movement’s victims.
26 Cf. the “People’s Daily” (Renmin ribao ) leader of 22 July 1999.
353
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
Future research exposing parallels between late imperial and modern religious
movements will undoubtedly reveal further insight, in particular with reference to
heterodox Christian sects. For the purpose of this thesis, however, the results relating
to popular Christianity during the period of prohibition may suffice. The complex
phenomenon of indigenous responses to alien concepts and the creation of social
traditions perpetuating the converts’ identity deserves academic attention in itself.
354
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
Appendix:
1. Carlo da Castorano’s letter to Matteo Ripa, reprinted in M. Fatica (ed.), Matteo
Ripa, Giornale (1705-1724), Volume II (1711-1716), pp. 354-355:
“[I christiani] sono realmente perseguitati dagl’altri capi e settarij della
medesima setta Zin ly kiao, quali tuttavia perseverano e la causa è perché prima
ricevevano da loro denari e presenti, ma hora che sono christiani, non hanno più a
far con loro, .... , e per impedire che non entrino altri e quei che sono entrati nella
Santa Legge la lascino vivere in pace quei che si riducono alla Santa Legge; e per
ciòe conseguire non solo spendono denari, ma spargono infamie e calunnie contro la
Santa Legge et Europei predicatori di essa, persuadendo di più appresso li mandarini
che sono christiani falsi e solo entrano nella Santa Legge per fuggire il castigo”.
Free translation:
“[The Christians] are in reality persecuted by the leadership and by the
followers of the sect Xinglijiao, who are still holding out. This is because they at first
received money and presents from them, though Christian converts now no longer
have any dealings with them. ... To prevent others from converting to Christianity and
to entice those who already converted by promising a peaceful life in return for
retracting from Christianity ... they not only spare no expense but also hurl lies and
abuse against the Christian faith and its European preachers, while talking the officials
into believing that they are all false Christians who only converted in order to escape
punishment [for originally adhering to the White Lotus]”.
2. The confession of the priest Paulus Van:
“Ego infrascriptus sacerdos maximus peccator contra sanctitatem et
excellentiam sacramentorum: In civitate Cing cu hien cum quatuor mulieribus
conjungatis in audiendo earum confessionem colloquntur fui aliqua verba obscena
intra. Confessionem iam terminatam, et copulatur cum illis, et post copulam impositis
poenitentiis eas absolvi. Ex his supradictis, unam alteram corpolicem peccati, cum
post aliquot dies altera vice pro confessione ad me accesserit, cum ea iterum peccavi
eodem genere peccatorum, et circumstantia, ut supra, et iterum absolvi. In Cing kia
gan in excipienda confessione unius mulieris conjungate loquntur verba obscena ... et
revera immediate post absolutionem peccavi cum ea in loco confessionis. ... In eodem
loco iterum cum quinque mulieribus conjunctis colloquntur fui aliqua verba inhonesta
in confessione, et postea intra eandem confessionem feci actionem impudicam,
tangendo scilicet partem verecundam, et finita earum confessionem eas etiam absolvi,
ex quibus est una puella, ista habet aetatem 13. aut 14. annorum neque aliqui
responsata. In Ciuan Khi Li cum quinque mulieribus conjungatis audienda earum
confessione dixi verba turbia ad excitandum amorem venerem, proinde cum una
quocum habui copulam in eadem confessione jam finita, et post copulam tres ex istis
absolvi, alias vero duas permissi abire sine absolutione. In Nan pa so cum sex
mulieribus coniugatis leguntur aliqua verba obscena in confessione, et immediate
post auditam confessionem earum feci copulam cum istis, et post copulam impositis
poenitentiis, eas absolvi. Insuper cum aliis duabus mulieribus coniugatis peccavi
tantum, tangenda nempe parte verecunda immediate post absolutionem, sed in
355
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
ipsamed confessione jam fuit verba, et signa inhonesta. Postremo retigi partem
verecundam aliarumtrium mulierum conjugatorum, simulque cum istis colloquntur
aliqua verba turbia intra audiendam earum confessionem; istis autem tribus utra dedi
absulutionem necne, non bene recordor, sed fortasse eas etiam absolvi. Hic numerus
personarum iterum supradictorum, cum quibus peccavi, est certus; sed utrum exceptis
supra-enumeratis personis cum aliquibus aliis mulieribus similia peccata
commisserim necne, non bene recordor; unde denuntio me etiam pro dubio fortasse
pecasse cum quinque aut sex personis femineis.
Ad pedes vostra Amp. Ill[ustrissi]me me gravissimorum atque
perhorrendorum criminum reum prostratur. ut per D[ivi]ni nostri Jesu Christi
passionem, ac amarissimam mortem mei misserimi misereatur presento. [...] Ego
sacerdos indigni[ssi]mus servus Paulus Van27
English translation:
“I, the undersigned priest, am the worst sinner against the holiness and
excellence of the sacraments: When I took the confessions of four women in the town
Cing cu hien, I included some obscene words in my advice. After the confession had
come to an end, I copulated with them, and afterwards I imposed some penances and
absolved the women. [...] One of the women approached me some days later to be
granted confession ..., and I sinned with her in the same manner, but again I absolved
her.” In Cing kia gan, I exchanged obscene words with one woman, with the intention
that she copulate with me after confession, and she then indeed sinned with me
immediately after having been absolved, in the very same confessional. ... In the same
locality, five women appeared together for confession, which resulted in several
compromising words. After confession I acted shamefully, touching their private
parts, [but] I absolved them after the confession. Among these women was a young
girl, 13 or 14 years of age. In Ciuan Khi Li, while listening to the confessions of five
women, I said disturbing things in order to excite their lust. When the confessions had
ended I copulated with them, absolving three of the women afterwards - but verily
allowing the two others to leave without absolution. In Nan Pa So I read out
obscenities together with six women during confession, copulating with them
immediately after confession. After this act, I made them do their penances and
absolved them. On top of this, I sinned together with another two women by touching
them indecently, and through shameful words and gestures during confession. After
this I touched the private parts of the three other women, uttering obscenities while
they were saying their confessions. Whether I absolved all of these three I cannot
remember, but maybe I did absolve them after all. The account of the above-named,
with whom I sinned is certain. But it is possible that I also committed similar sins
against other women - I really do not remember. In the meantime I suspect that I have
to admit to seducing another five or six women. I prostrate myself at your feet,
Excellency, having committed the gravest and most horrendous sins, and I present
myself to the forgiveness of our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us such a bitter death.
... I, the most worthless servant, Priest Paulus Van.”
27
APF SC, series III, Cina e Regni Adiacenti, 1806-1811, folia 140 R/V and 142 R.
356
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
3. Zhupi by the Daoguang emperor of DG 26/1/25






Free translation:
Those practising Christianity for the sake of moral perfection should be
pardoned. It is no longer necessary to ban their building of shrines and community
halls, their use of crucifixes, icons and statues, sutras and sermons. Those who follow
the religion for the sake of wickedness and in order to ensnare strangers through
calumniation, or those members of other sectarian movements who use the name of
Christianity in order are all to be treated as traitors and criminals and must be
punished pursuant to the regulations. We hold fast at the prohibition of foreigners
entering the hinterland in order to proselytise. The edict be known and respected.
4. Jiaqing edict of (JQ) 5/6/22, i.e. 12 August 1800 (Shengxun, no. 99)
(cited in de Groot, Sectarianism and Religious Persecution, pp. 395-396 and in his
own translation):













The Board of Punishment reports to Us the discovery that Khwei-min, Woshih-pu, T’u-khin and T’u-min secretly profess the European religion. Over and over
again, the road to conversion has been opened to them, but those convicts all the more
steadfastly refuse to renounce their religion. The Board therefore proposes that they
shall be exiled to Ili, and there be charged with prejudicial and crushing functions, etc.
T’u-khin and T’u-min are great-grandsons of Su-nu, who in the Yung ching period for
some crime was thrust out of the imperial family, and degraded to the rank of Red
Girdle nobleman. As descendants of a culprit, they ought to have performed their
duties and observed the laws; but they presumed secretly to profess the European
religion, and though the said Board repeatedly offered to them an opportunity of
conversion, they rejected its arguments, and from first to last clung to their errors,
without repenting. This is a very heinous offence. They shall be divested of their
357
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
dignity of Red Girdle noblemen; their names shall be erased from the Imperial familyregister, and they shall be sent to Ili, where they are to wear the cangue for six months,
and thereafter shall be employed for prejudicial and crushing work. Khwei-min and
Wo-shih-pu likewise steadfastly declared themselves unwilling to forsake their
religion, and willing to suffer punishment for it; they shall therefore be expelled from
their Banner regiment and exiled to Ili, there to be exhibited for three months with a
cangue around their necks, and then to be employed for prejudicial and crushing work.
T’u-khin and the three other convicts ... have turned their backs upon Us and
committed rebellion; therefore they shall never be set at liberty or return. The military
Governor of those regions shall at all times inquire after them, and keep them under
strict control and rule; and if they should run away from their place of exile, or in any
other way cause trouble, he must respectfully request Our orders to put them to death.
5. Memorial of 4 March 1814 by Chief Censor Li Kefan :







Translation by J. J. M. de Groot:
“In Kwangtung the population often secretly join the Christian religion, and in
the district of Hiang-shan women frequently [became] members. In particular it was to
be feared that riotous folk would slip into that religion, draw others into its seductions
and thus create disturbance ... Now as regards the region comprising the districts of
Hiang-shan and Macao, situated near the foreign Oceans and inhabited by barbarians
... of late years Christianity is again promulgated and professed there; if this continues,
We also fear that disturbance and trouble will come of it. Orders have been issued in
each province to make searches everywhere in the wards, and Tsiang Yiu-sien (the
Viceroy) and Tung Kiaotseng (the Governor) shall issue rescripts to their subordinates
to make the necessary measures for severely tracking those sectaries and riotous
members of societies, and prosecute them. .... also that those who tolerate such people
must be punished, in order that the evil influence of heresy shall be annulled, and the
loyal thus be made to live in peace. ”
6. Christian writings referred to in chapter 8, part 2, ‘Christian Sutras’:
Bi wang  - “Fleeing evil” (anon.)
Bo huijiao “ Refutation of Islam” (Yin Hongxu)
Chongxiu jingyun  - “Essential compilation for adoration and
meditation”
(An Guoningand Lin Deyao)
Chuhui dawen  - “A first catechism” (anon.)
Chuzao tiandi jiangben  - “Commentary on the creation”
(anon.)
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Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
Gu-xin shengjing  - “Old and new testaments” (Florian Bahr)
Jiaoyao xulun “ Prolegomena to the essential aspects of the faith”
(Ferdinand Verbiest)
Kouduo richao  - “Daily record of oral exhortations” (Li Jiubiao)
Lixiu yijian “ Mirror for the encouragement of cultivation” (Li Jiugong)
Po-xie xiang bian  - “Detailed refutation of heresy” (Huang Yubian)
Ruijianlu - “Records of accurate reflections” (I. Kögler et al.)
Sanshan lunxueji  - “Recorded sermons of the three mountains”
(Mensaert: Dialogues de Fuchou, Julio Aleni)
Shengjiao rike “ Daily Lessons in the Holy Faith” (Longobardo, et al.)
Shengjing guangyi  (“Expounding the blessings of the sacred
scripture”)
Shengmujing  - “Scripture of the holy mother” (possibly Rho, 1625)
Shengmu xingshi  - “Life of the holy mother”
Shengnian guangyi  - “Almanac of blessings” (de Mailla)
Shengnian guangyi quanbian  - “A complete almanac of
blessings”
Sheng ruowang niebomu zhuan - “Vita of St John Nepomuk”
(Bahr)
Shengshi churao - “Nourishment for a prosperous age” (de Mailla)
Sheng shaowulüe jiuri jingli - “Nine-day rite according to
Saint
Xavier” (Lin Deyao)
Sheng yinajue  - “Vita of Ignatius Loyola” (An Guoningand Lin
Deyao)
Shengyong xujie  - “Sequel to the holy hymns” (F. Bahr)
Tian-shi mingbian  - “A discourse on the differences between
Buddhism
and Christianity” (Yang Tingyun)
Tianzhu jiaoyao  - “Summary of the religion of the lord of heaven”
(Matteo Ricci)
Tianzhu jing  - “Scripture of the lord of heaven” (anon.)
Tianzhu jiangsheng yanxing jilüe “ Recorded
phenomena on
the words and deeds of the Lord during his descent to
the world”
(Julio Aleni and Emmanuel Diaz)
Tianzhu jingshu  - The sutra of the heavenly lord (anon.)
Tianzhu shengjiao rike  - “Daily lessons in the sacred faith”
(Luigi Buglio and Emmanuel Diaz)
Tianzhu shengjiao shengren xingshi  “Lives of the saints of the Christian church” (Vagnoni, 1624)
Tianzhu shengjiao sizi jingwen  - “Four character
hymnal on
the sacred faith in the lord of heaven” (J. Aleni)
Tianzhu shilu - “True summary of the lord of heaven” (M. Ruggieri)
Tianzhu shiyi  - “True account of the lord of heaven” (M. Ricci)
Wanwu zhenyuan “ The true origin of all things” (Julio Aleni)
Xie tianzhu jing  - “Showing remorse to the lord of heaven”
Xinjing “ Scripture of faith” (anon., probably not Ruggieri & Ricci: Prière de la
foi, 1585; cf. Mensaert)
Xing-li zhenquan - “True explanation of nature and principle” (Sun
Zhang)
359
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Yesu shengti daowen  - “Prayers reflecting on the sacred body
of
Jesus” (Julio Aleni)
Yijian daoyi  - “Simplified guide to the art of praying” (Shen Dongxing)
Yi ping - “Righteousness comprehended” (anon.)
Zhaoyong shenjing  -“Reflections of the eternal sacred mirror” (Lin
Deyao)
Zhaozao tian, di, renwu zhenzhu -“True lord of all
creation” (anon.)
Zhujing tiwei “ The basic meaning of the lord’s scriptures” (Yin
Hongxu)
Zhu sumi pian - “Illuminating coarse superstitions” (anon.)
360
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
Bibliography
All listed titles
are either cited in the footnotes
or were consulted for
general background knowledge.
1. Primary Sources
A. First Historical Archives 
Category:
Memorials”
 “Records of Great State Council
Sub-Category: “Peasant Rebellions” (Section III, Catalogue 166)
Scroll Document [+sub-no.] Date-Officials
8875
8875
8875
8876
2750 [7]
2750 [8]
2751 [9+10]
2763 [19]
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1/9/1819-Qishan
1851-Pan Duo
29/3/1815-Guang Bao
Reported matter
.
Request to spare apostates
Trial of Zhu Rong and Tong Ao
Report on ‘English aliens’
Zhang Dapeng and his ‘gang’
Sub-Category: “Intrusion of Imperialism”
(Section III, Catalogue 167)
Scroll Document [+sub-no.] Date-Officials
Reported matter
9258
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1813-Qin Jie
9258
492 [3]
9258
9258
492 [8]
492 [9]
9258
492 [11]
9258
492 [12]
9258
492 [14]
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-Gioro Yarhashan
26/7/1754-E Rongan
18/7/1754
-Zhuang Yougong
28 May 1758
-Li Chuanguang
25/12/1759 and
28/8/1760-Wu Shitian
Wu Shaoshi-3/9/1767
Signboards and doorscrolls
with Christian characters
Request for swift action
against Christianity
Trial of Zhang Ruose
Confessions of Xie Wenshan
9258
9258
492 [17]
492 [18]
9258
9258
492 [19-20]
492 [21]
.
Arrival of aliens in Fujian
Westerners in Guangdong
Collusion of Chinese
Christians with foreigners
29/10/1767-Wu Shaoshi On Christian ‘Buddha statues’
4/12/1767
Itinerant medics as
Zhong Yin & Li Shiyao Christian missionaries
21/5/1774
On He Guoda
26/1/1777-Li Xinbo
Infiltration of foreigners
361
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
9258
9258
9258
9258
9258
9258
9258
9258
9258
9258
9258
9260
9260
9260
9260
9261
9261
9261
9261
9261
9261
9261
9261
9261
9261
9261
9261
9261
9261
492 [23]
492 [24]
493 [26]
493 [28]
493 [29]
493 [30]
493 [32]
4/12/1784-Sun Shiyi
Diminishing role of foreigners
8/4/1782-Tangjueluoba Arrest of Christian traders
16/9/1746-Jiang BingTestimony by Fu Zuolin
6/8/1751-Heng Wen
Discovery of scriptures
18/10/1751-Heng Wen
ditto
12/7/1754-Fang Fucheng Zhili Christianity
6/11/1768-Asiha
Interrogation of Wang
Xiangsheng and others
493 [33]
13/1/1769-Asiha
Trial of Wang Xiangsheng
493 [34]
9/2/1782-Mei Guang
Trial of Li Tianyi
493 [35+36] 4/1/1805-Cao Wenzhi, Writings connected to
Wu Mingqiu and Liu E Adeodato case
493 [38]
30/5/1805-De Lengtai A Christian vision
498 [37]
7/5/1806-Lu Kang,
Trial of Tong Lan
Wen Ning and Fu Hui
498 [38]
2/7/1805-Dong Gao
Apostasies
498 [39]
9/5/1805-Eledengbao
Christian Banner trials
498 [46]
16/6/1805-Dong Gao Banner Christians
501 [12]
1814-Ying Shan
Apostate Kui Min and
Christian Zhao Heng
501 [14]
1815-Na Yancheng
Anti-heresy trial
501 [15]
1815-He Ning
The Christian Zhao clan
501 [16+17] 1806
Christian village Sanggu
501 [18]
1817-Heng An &
Christian ritual objects
Wang Yanbo
discovered in Beijing
501 [20]
23/12/1817-Mian Kai Negative influence of spouses
501 [21]
1806
Sichuan Christians
501 [22]
1806-Ying He
Confession of barber
& Mu Zhang’a
501 [37]
21/7/1800-Chang Ming Christian-Muslim collusion
503 [8]
23/5/1812-Yan Jian Christian Miao missions
503 [13]
1815-Xu Kun
Christian baojia Gubei
503 [45]
22/9/1812-Yan Jian
Christianity in Sichuan
503 [39]
10/8/1805-Fang Weidian Persecutions in Shaanxi
503 [48]
January 1815
Hua county Christianity
- Tang Zun & Ke Hen
Category:  “Palace Memorials Approved by the Emperor’s Hand”
Sub-Category: “ Religious Affairs”
number
4
9
year
1806
1806
Reported matter
Christianity in Shaanxi province
The proper place for women
n.b.: See also Appendix for zhupi cited from secondary sources.
362
.
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
B. Archivum de Propaganda Fide
Category: Acta Congregationis Particularis super rebus sinarum et indiarum
orientalum (Scritture riferite nei Congressi) - Indie Orientali/Cina
Annual collections: 1733-1736
ff. 2-4: Letter by Dominican to Rome, complaining about the
hostile attitude of officials in Fujian; 1733
folium 121 R: Matteo Ripa, Relazione della Espulsione de’
Missionarii della Cina; 1733
ff. 166-177: Antonio Enigues, Remarques sur la Relation de la
persecution arrivée à la fin de 1733
1737-1740
folium 20: Instructions by Father Pedrini to the Christians of
Beijing; 2 November 1736
1779-1781
folium 117: Petrus Maria Lai on his mission in Hu-Guang
folium 236: Request for help by Chinese cleric Cassius Joseph
Taj to Vatican; 25 December 1779
ff. 266-269 and 283-284: Report on the situation in Nanjing
1806-1811
ff. 24-25: Conforti on yao hui
ff. 241-242: Gioacchino Salvetti (OFM) on the forbidden sale
of medical substances
Category:
Scritture riferite nei Congressi, series III
- Cina e Regni Adiacenti
Annual collections: 1806-1811
ff. 16-17: Joseph Nunez Ribeira to Beijing on the reasons of the
failure of the China mission
folium 30: C. J. Létondal to Pedro Gravina in Madrid; Macau
19 January 1806
ff. 105-111: Letter by A. Luigi da Signa, containing list of new
Chinese missionaries; Puhuo, Shanxi 7 March 1806
ff. 114 and 141: Formula Iuramentum (Rites)
folium 138: State of the mission in Shanxi
ff. 140 R/V and 142 R: The confessions of Paulo Van
ff. 145-148: Letter by F. Delgado (OFM) on the Rites
folium 138: Letter reporting on Charles Tan, Joseph Li (Peter
Zai) and Philip Li
folium 161: Giovanni Battista Marchini; Macau, 16 October
1806
ff. 165-166: Letter of 1806 by Alexandre Gouvea to Cardinal
Borgia, referring to Simon Fan
363
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
ff. 167 and 194: Letter by Denis Chaumont to Boiret in Paris;
London, 26 October 1806
folium 174: Antonius de Calatia on pagan funeral rites among
the Christians of Shanxi; 26 October 1806
ff. 175-178: Letter by Giovanni Antonio de Pompejana; Henceu
/ Hunan, 29 October 1806,
ff. 179-180: by Alexandre Gouvea to the Vatican, on school for
Chinese novices; 5 November 1806
ff. 187-188: Ghislain (CM) Beijing to Paris; 6 November 1806
ff. 190-191: Osservazioni sull’erezione d’un collegio di Sinesi
nelle Isole Philippine
ff. 195-196: E. D. di San Goldino to Rome from Macau; Oct.
1806.
ff. 202-208: Vicar Apostolic of Sichuan, Cardinal Dufresse,
on the situation in Sichuan
folium 215 R: Letter by Joseph Milt concerning a case of
divorce; Fujian, 27 December 1806
ff. 223-226: Protest note by the ex-Jesuits, contained in letter
sent from Pondicherry; 21 May 1804
ff. 235-238: G. B. Marchini from Macau; 8 December 1806
ff. 398-402 Emmanuele Conforti to Rome from Beijing,
on the effects of the Adeodato affair; 1 October 1807
Category:
Scritture Originali della Congregazione Particolare
dell' Indie e Cina (SOCP) - Indie Orientali
Annual collections: 1723-1725
ff. 21-23: Giuseppe Cerù: Relazione del Metodo...
ff. 40-42: Domenico Perroni to the Propaganda offices; 1723.
ff. 125-131: Copy of Perroni’s letter
folium 147 ff.: Letter by Perroni on the ‘Editto del Mandarino
Zum-tu e Vicere di Fo-kien contra la religione christiana’;
1723
ff. 188-189: Johannes Müllener on the effects of the Yongzheng
edict
1779-1781
ff. 127-130: Nathanaël Burger on the role of Chinese priests in
forbidden commercial activity; Shaanxi, August 1779
1793-1795
ff. 247-249: Protest letter sent by the Chinese priest Stephen
Bao to the Propaganda
1806-1811
folium 19: Joseph Nunez Ribeira to the Propaganda Fide; 1806
folium 22: Dubia against the prohibition of ancestral worship
364
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
folium 23: Letter on the persecution of 1805; 1806
folium 37: E. D. de S. Goldino, bishop of Macau; circa 1806
1817
ff. 9-16: Propaganda report on the China mission 1805-1814
ff. 13-14: Letter to AP on the state of the Beijing mission
ff. 15-17: Letter to Propaganda on the difficulties for
missionaries in Shanxi and Shaanxi, November 1811
(with list of clerics active in the late 18th century)
folium 17: On Christian sororities
ff. 31-33: Jiaqing edict of 1811, on the prohibition of
contacting missionaries in the capital
ff 33-36: Propaganda report on the state of the China mission
in the aftermath of the Adeodato Affair
folium 37 R: Goldino on Michele Siè and Raffaele Ijon
C. Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana
Category: Lat. Vat. 12849
Brevis narratio itineris ex Italia usq. ad Chinam, et de emptione huius domus dicata
Sanctae Mariae de Aracoeli in hac urbe Xan Tunensi de Túng Chãng fu, per nos
Patrem Joannem Baptistam de Iliceto, Patrem Gabrielem Antonium a S. Joanne,
Prem. Carolum a Castorano, et Fratrem Vincentiu a Roiate Ordinis Fratrum
Minorum de Observatione S.P.N. Francisci factis itineris ex Italia usq. ad Chinam, ...,
by Carolus a Castorano (1724) [circa 120 folia].
D. Printed sources
1.
Chinese local gazetteers 
Zhongguo difangzhi jicheng ( “A compilation of
China’s
local gazetteers”), Shanghai: Shanghai shuju 1993:
Provincial series /Vol./Reign period - locality / Section
Jiangsu series/ 13 / Qianlong - Changzhou / 'Altars and temples' 
Jiangsu series /14 / Qianlong - Yuanhe  / 'Altars and temples'
Sichuan series / 54 / Kangxi - Shunqing  / 'Temples and sacrificial altars'

Zhejiang series / 30 / Yongzheng - Ningbo  / 'Daoism and Buddhism'
and
'Temples' 
2.
Rare Gazetteers held in Japan 
365
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
Ribencang
zhongguo
hanjian
difangzhi
congkan

(“A collection of rare Chinese
local gazetteers from Japanese holdings”),
Beijing: Shumu wenxian chubanshe  1991, pp. 334347.
Volume 5: Lingshan  xian during the Yongzheng reign period,
Section: 'Rites and Erudition' 
3.
Shiliao xunkan 
Gugong bowuyuan (Imperial Palace Museum) (eds),
Shiliao
xunkan(“Ten-daily publication of historical materials”),
Beijing:
Gugong bowuyuan 1 930-1931:
Category [“Heaven”]:
Vol./Pages
Title of memorial/Reported matter
Date
1/32-33 “ Memorial requesting an end
to the spreading of heretical thought, as perpetrated by Zhao Hongen and Zhao
Guolin”, 1736
2/48-49 “ ”The Luo Sect Case”, Jiangxi, 1730
3/98 Case of sedition, 1759
5/142-146
The
memorialising officials are struck by the “madness” of displaying “seditious
characters” on door-posts, Beijing 1731
9/294-301  “Case against the gathering of crowds
through the spreading of evil rumours in Zezhou, Shanxi Province”, Shanxi 1729.
10/338-339 “ Case file on the selling of
amulets and the marketing of medical substances by the Buddhist monks Guang Xing,
et al. of Yizhou”, Zhili Province 1769
11/365-372  “The Taiwanese Huangjiao process”, 1768.
11/373-374
T
 aitian
cases, 1732
and
Sansheng
12/421-424  “The Case of Christianity in Tongbo
District,
Henan”
16/537-543, 567-568 and 606-607  “The Taiwanese Huangjiao
process”, 1768.
366
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
Category [“Earth”] :
Vol./Pages
Title of memorial/Reported matter
Date
30/98-104 “ Arrest of the Luojiao propagator Han
Derong of Dingxiang County, Shanxi Province”, 10 March 1724
4.
Huangchao jingshi wenbian
He Changling (author) and Cao Yu  (editor), Huangchao
jingshi wenbian
(“Compilation of historical events
during the Qing
dynasty”) [1880]:
Volume
Section, Author and Title
69
“Rites concerning government” / “Proper Customs”
Li Wei , “Inscription concerning the transformation of churches
into
temples
for
the
Celestial
Goddess
ƒΖ”
5.
Wenxian congbian 
Gugong bowuyuan (Imperial Palace Museum) (eds),
Wenxian
congbian (“Systematic compilation of documentary
sources”),
Beijing: Gugong bowuyuan  1931, Volume I, pp. 112:
“The Case against Yinsi and Yintang”, 1 June 1726
6.
Ba-xian Archives 
Li He and Sichuan Provincial Archives (eds), Qingdai ba-xian dang'an
huibian  (“Collection of archival documents
from the
Qing period at the Ba-xian [archives]”), Beijing: Dang'an chubanshe
 1991:
Part V, Section 13:  “Christianity and Heresy”
Page 239: “Arrest of a shaman engaged in spirit dancing, QL 36/7” [Aug./Sep. 1771]

Pp. 240-245: “Cases resulting from an investigation into Christianity in Ba-xian,
QL 47-48 [1782-1783]”

367
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
7.
Jiaqing Shengxun 
Daqing shengzu renzong rui huangdi shengxun

(“Sacred edicts of the Jiaqing emperor”, as cited in J. J. M. de Groot,
Sectarianism and Religious Persecution in China - A Page in the History of
Religions, Leiden: E. J. Brill and Co. 1901):
de Groot (page) / Shengxun no.
Matter and Date
:
395 and 406 / 99
Fang Weidian  on the depravities of Sun
Dan’gan , leader of the Qiaoqiao
sect,
JQ 5/6/22 (12/8/1800).
401 and 404 / 100
Ma Huiyu on the treatment of Liu Yi
and
eight fellow Christians discovered in Jingshan

district, JQ 18/15/5 (13/6/1813).
484
/ 102
On the case against the Christian Li Chaoxuan
,
JQ 23/12/12 (7/1/1819).
8.
Jiaqing Shilu 
Daqing renzong rui huangdi shilu
(“Veritable records of the Jiaqing emperor”), Taibei: Taiwan huawen shuju
 1964:
Volume III, juan 142: edict of JQ 10/5/28 (25/6/1805)
Volume IV, juan 146: edict of JQ 15 (1810)
9.
Yongzheng memorials 
Gongzhongdang Yongzhengchao zouzhe 
(“Memorials from the Yongzheng period in the Imperial Palace Archives”, as cited
in Ma Zhao,“Shilun Qianlong shiqi (1736-1796) chajin tianzhujiao shijian”
 , MA dissertation:
Zhongguo
renmin daxue / Qingshi yanjiusuo
, 1999):
Volume 292, No. 1: Fu’an case of 1723
Volume 294, No. 1: On different categories of converts
Volume 294, No. 5: More on the Fu’an case
10.
Sinica Franciscana
(Fortunato Margiotti (ed.), Sinica Franciscana: Relationes et epistolas
Fratrum Minorum in Sinis qui a. 1684-92 missionem ingressi sunt, Rome:
Sinica Franciscana 1975)
Volume VIII A, pp. 955-962: letter by Miguel F. Oliver to K. Stumpf, 2 May 1718
368
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
11.
Letters by Antoine Gaubil
Renée Simon (ed.), Le P. Antoine Gaubil, S.J.: Correspondence de Pékin
1722-1759, Geneva: Droz 1970:
Page
Matter
Date
127-129 / letter to P. Magnan in Paris on intra-missionary rivalry, 6 November 1726
152-160 / letter to Cayron on the ancestor rites, 4 October 1727
382 / to Souciet (St Petersburg) on “false sects” in Shandong and Henan, 23 July 1734
369
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
E. Individual printed documents
Congregatio Sancti Officii Acta causae rituum seu ceremoniarum sinensium, Venice:
Antonio Bortoli 1709 [Library of the Propaganda Fide].
Domingo Fernandez Navarette, “An Account of the Empire of China, Historical,
Political, Moral and Religious, A short description of that empire, and
notable examples of its emperors and ministers, Written in Spanish”,
in: A. and J. Churchill (eds), A Collection of Voyages and Travels ... in
six volumes, London: Churchill 1732, volume I, pp. 1-380 [British
Library 566.k.6].
Francisco Gonzales de San Pedro, Relation de la nouvelle persecution de la Chine
Jusqu'à la mort du Cardinal de Tournon; Dressé par le R. P. François
Gonzales de S. Pierre, Religieux de l'Ordre de S. Dominique et
Missionnaire Apostolique à la Chine ... sur une plus ample relation des
missionnaires ... qui ont été chassés de la Chine, [Paris] 1714
[British Library 867.g.17.(1)].
Alexander Gouvea, Calendarium generale perpetuum Diocesis Pekinensis,
[Beijing] 1788 [Beijing Library, Beitang collection, no. 2875].
Charles Thomas Maillard de Tournon, The Letter of the Cardinal of Tournon ...
written ... to ... the Bishop of Conon, to Comfort him in the Prison in
which he was confined ... at Pekin under the custody of the Jesuits,
1709 [British Library 489.g.14].
Martino Martini, Novus Atlas Sinensis. Beyfugung vom Reich Catayo, Historia von
dem Tartarischen Krieg, etc., Amsterdam: J. Blaeu 1655 [British
Library Maps 18.e.2].
idem
Novus Atlas Sinensis a Martino Martinio Societatis Iesu Descriptus et
serenissimo archiduci Leopoldo Guilielmo Austriaco Dedicatus cum
privilegio S.C. Maj. et Ordinis Foed. Belg., Vienna 1655 [Beijing
Library, Beitang collection].
William Willis Moseley, The Origins of the First Protestant Mission to China and
History of the Events which Induced the Attempt, and Succeeded in the
Accomplishment of a Translation of the Holy Scriptures into the
Chinese Language and of the casualties which assigned to ... Dr
Morrison in the carrying out of his plan. To which is appended a new
account of the origin of the British and Foreign Bible Society, London:
Simpkin and Marshall 1842 [British Library 4765.bb.23].
Josephus Suarez, S.J., “Nachrichten aus China - Leben und Sterben ... des zwölfften
Sunischen Printzen Josephi”, in: Neuer Welt-bott mit allerhand
Nachrichten der Missionarien der Soc. Jesu, 1728, volume II, pp. 291301 [British Library 4767.g.3].
Yong Zheng  emperor, Shangyu  [British Library, Or. MS 6787].
F. Other printed sources and resources:
Henri Cordier, Bibliotheca Sinica, Paris: Guilmoto 1904 and Geuthner 1924.
Archie Crouch, Christianity in China: A Scholars' Guide to Resources in the
Libraries and Archives of the U.S., Armonk: M. E. Sharpe 1989.
370
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
Daqing lüli  [1842imprint], volume 9, section “”
(“Pernicious
writings and rumours”).
Daqing fagui daquan [n.pl.:] Zhengxueshe
1910/1911
[foreword by Yi Kuang dated Xuan Tong 1, i.e.
1908].
Albert Herrmann, Historical and Commercial Atlas of China [Harvard-Yenching
Institute Monograph Series I], Cambridge/Mass.: Harvard University
Press 1935.
Charles Le Gobien (ed.), Lettres Édifiantes et curieuses de la Chine écrites par des
missionnaires jésuites 1707 [British Library 867.e.22(5)].
idem
Nouvelles lettres édifiantes de la Chine et des Indes Orientales, Paris:
1818-1823 [British Library G.12597-604].
idem et al. (eds), Lettres Édifiantes et curieuses de Chine par des missionnaires
jésuites 1702-1776, Paris: Garnier-Flammarion 1979.
Ningxia
tushuguan
guancang
tianzhujiao
tushu
mulu

 (English parallel
title: Collection Directory of Catholic Books
of
Ningxia
Library),
Ningxia: Ningxia tushuguan 1993.
Ken Perry, John Hinnells et al. (eds), Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity,
Oxford: Blackwell 1999.
Qinding daqing huidian , Shanghai: Tushujicheng yinshuju

1893.
Qingmo jiaoan(“Religious cases from the end of the Qing”), First
Historical
Archives
(eds),
Beijing:
Zhonghua
shuju
1996.
Ren Xuyu (ed.), Zongjiao cidian  (“Dictionary of religious
terms”),
Shanghai
cishu
chubanshe
1985.
Shanghai tushuguan xiwen zhenben shumu 
(Shanghai
Library Catalogue of Western Rare Books), Shanghai:
Shanghai
shehuikexueyuan
chubanshe1992.
Robert Streit, Bibliotheca missionum, Münster / Aachen: Internationales Institut für
Missionswissenschaftliche Forschung 1929, volume 5 [Asia].
Tan Qixiang , Zhongguo lishi dituji  (“Historical
atlas of
China”), Beijing: Ditu chubanshe 
1987, volume VIII
[Ming and Qing].
Laurence G. Thompson, Chinese Religion in Western Languages: A Comprehensive
and Classified Bibliography of Publications in English, French and
German through 1980, Tucson / Arizona: Association for Asian
Studies 1985.
idem
Chinese Religion: Publications in Western Languages, 1981 through
1990, Michigan / Ann Arbor: Association for Asian Studies 1993.
Hubert Verhaeren, Catalogue de la bibliothèque du Pé-T’ang, Beijing: Imprimerie
des Lazaristes 1949.
Xing’an huilan , [n.p.] Tushu jichengju , October
1834.
371
Copyright: Dr Lars Peter Laamann (SOAS)
2. Monographs and Articles:
Emily M. Ahern, The Cult of the Dead in a Chinese Village, Stanford: University of
California Press 1973.
Alabiso Alida, “Castiglione and the Introduction of European Painting and
Architecture in China”, unpublished paper for the International
Symposium ‘China and the World in the Eighteenth Century’,
Beijing June 1995.
Charles Wilfrid Allan, Jesuits at the Court of Peking, Hong Kong / Shanghai: Kelly
and Walsh 1935.
Mary M. Anderson, Hidden Power: The Palace Eunuchs of Imperial China, Buffalo /
New York: Prometheus Books 1990.
Robert Anthony, “Brotherhoods, Secret Societies and the Law in Qing-Dynasty
China”, in: David Ownby and Mary Somers Heidhues (eds), Secret
Societies Reconsidered, pp. 190-211.
Aziz Suryad Atiya, A History of Eastern Christianity, Millwood / New York: Kraus
Reprints 1980.
Shouyi,
Bai
shouyi
minzu
zongjiao
lunwenji
Bai

“Essays on Ethnicity and
Religion by Bai Shouyi”, Beijing: Beijing
shifan
daxue
chubanshe1 992.
Hugh David Roberts Baker, Chinese Family and Kinship, London: Macmillan 1979.
Richard Ball, Christianity in China - State and Work of the Native Evangelists
Contained in a Series of Tracts, London: Partridge and Oakey 1850.
Thomas Bamat and Jean-Paul Wiest (eds), Popular Catholicism in a World Church:
Seven Case Studies in Inculturation, Maryknoll / New York: Orbis
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idem
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idem
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idem
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idem
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of Change in Late Imperial China, Cambridge / Massachusetts and
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idem
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idem
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missionnaire”, in: Archivum Historicum Societatis Jesu XXIV (1955),
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idem
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géographie missionnaire”, in: Archivum Historicum Societatis Jesu
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idem
“La Chine centrale vers 1700 [II] - Les vicariats apostoliques de la
côte. Étude de géographie missionnaire”, in: Archivum Historicum
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idem
“La bibliothèque des Jésuites français de Pékin au premier tiers du
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idem
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d’Arelli and A. Tamburello (eds.), La Missione Cattolica in Cina,
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Henri Doré, Recherches sur les superstitions en Chine (vol. V): La lecture des
talismans chinois , Shanghai: Imprimerie de T’ou-sè-wè 1913.
idem
Recherches sur les superstitions en Chine (vol. VI): Le Panthéon
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idem
Recherches sur les superstitions en Chine (vol. XVII): Sommaire
historique du bouddhisme, Shanghai: Imprimerie de T’ou-sè-wè1936.
Du
Liangwei
,
Zhongguo
gudai
zongjiao
yanjiu

(“Research into China’s ancient
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Adrianus Cornelis Dudink (Du Dingke ), “The Rediscovery of a
Seventeenth
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H. T. Zurndorfer (eds), Conflict and Accommodation, pp. 94-140.
idem
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University (Taiwan): Background and Draft Catalog”, in: SinoWestern Cultural Relations Journal XVIII (1996), pp. 1-40.
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Benjamin A. Elman, From Philosophy to Philology - Intellectual and Social Aspects
of Change in Late Imperial China, Cambridge / Massachusetts:
Harvard University Press 1984.
idem
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Text Confucianism in Late Imperial China, Berkeley: University of
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thesis: Harvard University 1982.
idem
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389-410.
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dong
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wenxian
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idem
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yu
lishi
yanjiu
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idem
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
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Luo
Guang
,
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idem
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”
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387
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shehuikexueyuan yanjiushengyuan
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idem
and
Han
Bingfang,
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
( “Fairy tales - the illusory
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 u Qilai, transl.), “Ming-Qing
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the Human
Character during the Ming and the Qing”,in: Liu
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Xu Yang  Riben xuezhe yanjiu
zhongguoshi lunzhu xuanyi 
(“Selected
Translations
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idem (ed.)
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idem
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idem
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idem
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
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dixia
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Hongmen zhenshi  “A True Account of the Heaven and
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Dorothy A. Raber, Protestantism in Changing Taiwan: A Call to Creative Response,
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“Elementary Education in the Mission Enterprise”, in: Barnett and
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of
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Charles E. Ronan and Bonnie B. C. Oh (eds), East Meets West - The Jesuits in China
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Ruan Renze and Gao Zhennong , Shanghai zongjiaoshi
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
(“Jesuits in China”), Hong Kong: Xianggang
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gongjiao zhenli xuehui 
(Catholic Truth
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
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
(“Christian
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402